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Environmental Law: Paul Seals

Texas Lawyer

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Paul Seals

Shareholder, Guida, Slavich & Flores
Austin
62

Paul Seals' fascination with environmental issues began before he became a lawyer. Seals says that shortly before he graduated from St. Edward's University in 1972, he "finagled" a job with an agency then known as the Texas Water Quality Board. "I couldn't spell the word environment before I showed up over there," he says. "After I spent a short time, I thought, 'This is what I want to do.' "

Seals worked for the TWQB while studying at the University of Texas School of Law, where he earned his J.D. in 1975. The early 1970s was an exciting time for those involved in environmental law. During that period, Seals says there was a significant shift in thinking about the way things should be regulated, and he "had this unique opportunity to start at the ground floor" working on various programs. After the TWQB was abolished in 1977, Seals went to work for and became an assistant general counsel at the Texas Department of Water Resources, a predecessor agency of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, where he was involved in developing the state's water quality, hazardous waste and underground injection programs. In 1982, the general counsel of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency appointed Seals as the regional counsel in the EPA's Dallas office. "That's how I got exposed to the Clean Air Act," he says.

In 1987, after 15 years of working for state or federal agencies, Seals took his extensive knowledge of environmental regulations into private practice, starting as an associate with and later a partner in Heron, Burchette, Ruckert & Rothwell. Following that firm's dissolution in 1990, Seals moved to Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, and he joined Guida, Slavich & Flores in January 2009.

Seals works with clients trying to meet regulatory requirements under various federal and state environmental programs. That includes the Texas Flexible Permits Program, enacted when Ann Richards was governor, which extends regulations to facilities grandfathered when the Clean Air Act took effect by allowing flexibility in emission reductions. He also works with businesses involved in hydraulic fracturing and helps clients maneuver through proceedings under the Administrative Procedures Act.

Seals says his strength is in working with clients to try to "minimize the heartburn" in the regulatory environment and stay out of the courtroom.

"My job is to help you make your product, not to make law," he says.


Top-Knotch Lawyers

Jim Blackburn

Owner
Blackburn & Carter
Houston
65

"He is the go-to guy for the side actually fighting for the environment."

"He has substantive knowledge of the environmental laws, particularly in dealing with the environmental agencies."

Pat Braddock

Partner
Fulbright & Jaworski
Austin
63

"When you think of air experts in the state of Texas, she's going to be among the top of those you think of."

"She's professional, strong and effective."

Jeff Civins

Partner
Haynes and Boone
Austin
66

"In a hearing context where you're examining witnesses and cross-examining witnesses, Jeff is very adept in that arena."

"He's a very go-to guy."

Carol Dinkins

Partner
Vinson & Elkins
Houston and Washington, D.C.
67

"She's very versatile. She's done a lot of environmental litigation; because of her gravitas, she also consults for deals."

"She is probably one of the most diplomatic negotiators. She just has a gentle touch."

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