A practice with capacity in all areas of environmental law

Nicholas is well-equipped to provide relevant and applicable legal advice and to develop strategies with ingenuity, precision and a quick turnaround time. This approach has earned him considerable success in over 20 years of practice in this specialist and rapidly evolving field of law. Given that this is what we do on a daily basis as specialist practitioners with particular expertise, the firm is at the cutting edge of environmental law.

A practice with capacity in all areas of environmental law

Nicholas is well-equipped to provide relevant and applicable legal advice and to develop strategies with ingenuity, precision and a quick turnaround time. This approach has earned him considerable success in over 20 years of practice in this specialist and rapidly evolving field of law. Given that this is what we do on a daily basis as specialist practitioners with particular expertise, the firm is at the cutting edge of environmental law.

The firm’s primary practice areas

The firm’s primary practice areas

Audits & environmental due diligence

Nicholas has deep experience in undertaking compliance audits of clients’ operations in order to identify environmental laws, standards and policies applicable to those operations, and to advise on how best to remedy instances of non-compliance. Compliance auditing is an effective way of identifying actual and potential environmental legal liabilities and risks, and reducing the risks and costs associated with non-compliance. Nicholas also undertakes environmental due diligence exercises in connection with a variety of business transactions to assess and determine the risks and potential existing environmental liability. He has worked domestically and abroad in this practice area.

Compliance & enforcement

Compliance and enforcement are critical components of good governance and the rule of law. The firm is regularly sub-contracted by other professional services firms to provide legal advice in matters relating to the compliance with and enforcement of environmental law. In addition, the firm regularly advises private sector clients in matters concerning environmental compliance and enforcement, including due diligence investigations and compliance audits.

Environmental impact assessment

Nicholas has considerable experience advising clients on matters regarding compliance with the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations under the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998 and its predecessor, the Environment Conservation Act 73 of 1989. In addition, he has conducted many capacity-building and training sessions on the EIA Regulations and related laws for various organs of state and different structures within government. Nicholas is a member of the South African affiliate of the International Association for Impact Assessment and the Environmental Law Association which provide opportunities to keep abreast of contemporaneous themes and debates regarding the regulation of EIA in South Africa and related topics.

Pollution control and waste management

The firm regularly advises various clients on matters relating to pollution control and waste management. This includes providing advice relating to compliance and liability, as well as measures to enforce compliance where pollution or waste poses a threat of degradation to the environment. Nicholas has a thorough knowledge of the provisions and processes under both the regulatory regime under the National Environmental Management: Waste Act 59 of 2008, and the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act 39 of 2004, as well as the various municipal by-laws relevant to the topic.

Cultural heritage and heritage impact assessment

The environment includes the surroundings within which humans exist and which influence health and well-being. This includes the law pertaining to heritage resources and cultural heritage. Nicholas regularly advises clients on various aspects in connection with the conservation and management of heritage resources. His work in this field includes the formal protection of cultural landscapes and heritage resources, as well as advising clients on complying with the general protections under the National Heritage Resources Act 25 of 1999.

High Court litigation

Nicholas specialises in High Court litigation on constitutional, environmental and administrative legal issues. The firm has represented clients in civil applications and in criminal actions.

Nicholas has particular expertise in the procedural and substantive requirements for judicial review of administrative action, as well as appropriate ancillary relief (often including interlocutory and/or interdictory relief). Administrative action and judicial review of that type of decision-making is regulated principally by the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act. Nicholas has litigation experience in many of the provincial and local divisions of the South African High Court, as well as experience in the Supreme Court of Appeal and in drafting pleadings pertaining to an application to the Constitutional Court in which the firm was attorney of record for the successful respondent.

Ultimately, the success of a legal practice is defined to a significant extent by the cases it litigates. Nicholas’ recent successes in environmental litigation include the judgment and Order handed down in favour of our client (the City of Cape Town) in Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs and Another v Really Useful Investments 219 (Pty) Ltd and Another 2017 (1) SA 505 (SCA); and the judgment of the Western Cape High Court in City of Cape Town v Really Useful Investments 219 (Pty) Ltd (Case No: 21106/2014). Nicholas was also significantly involved in the successful judicial review and setting aside of the Regulations for Petroleum Exploration and Production, 2015 (the Fracking Regulations) at the behest of the applicants’ attorneys of record in JD Stern NO and Others v Minister of Mineral Resources (Case No: 5762/2015) in the Eastern Cape Division of the High Court of South Africa (Grahamstown). Other litigation instructions include a judicial review application that was heard in the Western Cape in 2018 in relation to the application of South Africa’s most recently enacted waste management legislation. That application concluded with the review and setting aside of the decision to approve the waste management licence at issue in the proceedings.

Minerals, energy & petroleum resources

The firm provides legal advice to a range of clients in the mining and energy industries, the petro-chemical sector and related industries. In addition to advising clients in the private sector, Nicholas advises various organs of state in the national, provincial and local spheres of the South African government, including South Africa’s state-owned petroleum and gas company; the parastatal responsible for energy generation and supply in South Africa; and the national authority responsible for South Africa’s national ports.

Sustainable development & land use planning

The firm regularly advises environmental and engineering consultancies, development planners, and other individuals or entities in negotiating and complying with the myriad of laws and regulations applicable to sustainable development and land use planning authorisation requirements.

Training & capacity-building

Nicholas has been involved as a presenter, trainer and facilitator in many capacity-building workshops on environmental law. This work has been instrumental in educating many South Africans drawn from different backgrounds as to the sustainability imperative as enshrined in South Africa’s laws. A particularly important component of this work has been assisting audiences in a variety of training initiatives in understanding how the evolution of South Africa’s environmental jurisprudence should assist them in shaping their future course of action, whether in the private or the public sector. Nicholas has conducted regular capacity-building training sessions for government and for private sector stakeholders on the EIA Regulations promulgated under the National Environmental Management Act, and related laws.