Brian Israel is Chair of the firm's Environmental Practice Group, as well as co-lead of the firm’s Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) working group. Brian's practice focuses broadly on environmental litigation, crisis management and counseling—including climate-related issues—and he is one of the nation's leading lawyers for Natural Resource Damages (NRD) claims. Over the course of his career, Brian has successfully litigated and/or resolved over one hundred environmental matters. Among other areas, Brian specializes in cases brought under federal and state environmental laws related to contaminated sites, including toxic tort lawsuits. Brian represents multiple Fortune 500 companies in some of the largest and most complex environmental matters across the country. Since 2010, Brian has been lead counsel to BP in relation to Deepwater Horizon NRD claims, and was also one of the trial attorneys at the Deepwater Horizon Clean Water Act (CWA) penalty trial.
Prior to joining the firm, Brian was an Honors Trial Attorney in the Environmental Enforcement Section of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). While at the DOJ, he handled several high-profile cases, including the largest NRD trial at the time. Additionally, Brian was awarded the Distinguished Service Award for his accomplishments in a Clean Air Act jury trial during his time at the DOJ. He also litigated claims on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pursuant to the Clean Water Act; the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA); and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).
Brian has spoken and written extensively about environmental law and policy issues. He is a principal author of "Natural Resource Damages: A Guide to Litigating and Resolving NRD Cases" (ABA, 2019), the definitive treatise on NRD claims. Brian is also the co-editor of the recently published book (ABA 2023), “Environmental, Social, Governance: The Professional’s Guide to the Law and Practice of ESG.” For nearly twenty years, Brian has maintained and regularly updated the State-by-State Guide to NRD Programs in All 50 States and Puerto Rico. He is the author of the "Natural Resource Damages" chapter in the Environmental Law Practice Guide (Gerrard, ed.). Brian has published on many other environmental law topics including environmental enforcement, crisis management, climate policy, corporate liability, regulatory reform, trial strategy, and Superfund. Brian's student note, "An Environmental Justice Critique of Risk Assessment," is published in the NYU Environmental Law Journal.
- BP, as lead counsel, in NRD matters relating to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, overseeing all legal and evidentiary aspects, including a large team of lawyers and experts. Brian successfully negotiated a global consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice, the Department of Interior, NOAA, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Texas, resulting in a final resolution of BP's NRD and CWA liability stemming from the Deepwater Horizon incident. In addition, in 2011, Brian negotiated a novel US$1 billion "early restoration" agreement allowing restoration to begin prior to the completion of the NRD assessment.
- Honeywell International, as lead counsel, in resolving NRD claims at Onondaga Lake, one of the largest Superfund sites in the United States. Brian successfully negotiated a precedent-setting settlement of Honeywell's NRD liability, including an innovative combination of recreational and ecological projects.
- Dow Chemical, as lead NRD counsel, representing the company at the Tittabawassee River and Saginaw River outside of Midland, Michigan. Brian successfully negotiated a consent decree resolving Dow's NRD liability at the site.
- Multi-national agricultural corporation related to potential NRD claims resulting from phosphate mining operations in the western United States. Mr. Israel is representing the company in all aspects of the Natural Resource Damages Assessment.
- Solutia/Eastman Chemical, as lead counsel, with respect to potential NRD liability at PCB manufacturing plants in Alabama and Illinois.
- CBS, as lead counsel, for natural resource damages claims at the Palmerton Zinc Superfund Site near the Appalachian Trail in Palmerton, Pennsylvania. Brian has led the company's defense of the claim including successful negotiations with the trustees and negotiation of a final consent decree.
- Fortune 100 company, as lead counsel, to advise on NRD assessment, settlement and litigation strategy related to a large contaminated river site in the Northeast United States.
- Motorola, as lead counsel, for a successfully resolved natural resource damages case in Puerto Rico.
- While at the U.S. Department of Justice, Brian was one of the lead government lawyers prosecuting the Montrose DDT litigation which alleged massive natural resource damages off the coast of the Palos Verdes shelf.
"Leading US Lawyer"—Environmental Litigation & Counseling (2021-2022)
- J.D., New York University, 1995, cum laude
- B.A., Environmental Philosophy, New College, University of South Florida, 1991
- Certificate, Sustainable Capitalism and ESG, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, 2022
- District of Columbia
- New York
Government & Military Service
- Honors Trial Attorney, Environmental Enforcement Section, Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), U.S. Department of Justice
- U.S. District Court, Western District of Tennessee, The Honorable Julia S. Gibbons
- Fellow, American College of Environmental Lawyers (ACOEL)
- Chair, Friends of Israel's Environment
- Member, Environmental Law Institute's Leadership Counsel
- President, Ohr Kodesh Congregation in Chevy Chase, Maryland (2009–2011)
- Founding Board Member and Vice-Chair, Warrior Expedition, a veteran nonprofit outdoor therapy program (2015–2020)
- Founding Board Member, Khumbu Research Center, a non-profit scientific laboratory in Nepal designed to help study the impact of climate change on high-altitude habitats
- Leader, Meditation, a daily, 15-minute virtual session for Arnold & Porter members and other participants, which is also available via podcast at Meditation Matters (March 2020–present)