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William T. Gorton III

William T. Gorton III

Bill Gorton is Chair of the Environmental, Natural Resources & Energy Service Group for the firm.  He is national counsel to numerous clients on natural resource, environmental regulatory and land and water resources matters. He has been counsel in the development of more than 10 power plants. He has been Lead Counsel to numerous surety companies regarding over $2 billion in financial guarantees on defaulting mining operations, hazardous waste facilities and solid waste disposal facilities throughout the United States. He has been primary environmental counsel in the development of interstate pipeline associated with major natural gas resource development. He also counsels on large natural resource and energy, business or corporate transactions, and project development assessing and addressing environmental regulatory issues and accomplishing clients goals.

Before embarking on a law career, Mr. Gorton managed many projects as an environmental consultant on projects throughout the U.S.

Recent Assignments

  • Counsel in development of and property rights acquisition for interstate natural gas liquids pipeline from Marcellus and Utica shale resource areas including state and federal requirements, environmental analysis associated with permitting, construction and operation.
  • Counsel to numerous manufacturing operations regarding regulatory compliance.
  • Lead counsel in first Brownfields transaction in Lexington, Ky., (2013) in acquisition of GE plant site for LexTran.
  • Advised and developed the state and federal reclamation financial assurance replacement program ($150 million) including permit transfer, owner/controller notice and collateral releases associated with Montana and Wyoming Powder River Basin Coal Company sales.
  • Lead environmental counsel representing international purchaser in $1 billion acquisition of active multi-state coal company, including underground, surface and mineral processing operations.
  • Acted as national counsel in coordinating matters for the New York Department of Insurance as Rehabilitator of Frontier Insurance Co. regarding surety exposure on over $1 billion for hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facilities, underground and surface coal mines, gold mines and processing facilities, solid waste disposal facilities, recycling facilities and other regulated industries throughout the United States.
  • Counsel to major Timber Investment Management Organizations in the acquisition of large Appalachian timer tracts and surface rights.
  • Lead counsel to largest thoroughbred race tract facility operator in the United States in federal CAFO rulemaking process with the United States Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act.
  • Lead counsel to major U.S. surety industry client with the United States Department of Interior, Office of Surface Mining in federal rulemaking regarding “owner/controller” liability under the Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act.
  • Led a team of lawyers on behalf of a major surety company in the bankruptcy of Horizon Natural Resources, the largest coal company bankruptcy in U.S. history.  The team developed strategies to assure land reclamation on over 400 mines under federal and five state regulatory programs while mitigating over $125 million in surety exposure.
  • Environmental counsel in development and/or financing of numerous independent power plant.

What Clients Say

. . . noted for his work in land and water resources issues, and is also regularly called upon to advise on coal industry matters.
- Chambers Commentary (USA), 2016
. . . thorough knowledge of the regulatory and administrative landscape.
- Best Lawyers, 2011
. . . knowledge and experience . . . irreplaceable assets to our company.
- Best Lawyers, 2007
. . . busy technical lawyer . . .
- Chambers USA, 2005

Recent News, Articles & Speaking Engagements

  • "What Are Waters of the United States? Why It Matters," Stites & Harbison Legal Update, July 28, 2017
  • "Coal Bankruptcies: Current Issues," presented at the EMLF 37th Annual Institute, Charlestown, S.C., June 14, 2016
  • "Current Issues and Perspectives on SMCRA Reclamation Bonding," with W. Blaine Early III,  presented before U.S. Dept. of Interior, Office of Surface Mining, Washington, DC, February 11, 2016
  • "Financial Assurances, Suretyship and Bonding," 2015 Kentucky Mineral Law Conference, Energy & Mineral Law Foundation, October 22, 2015
  • "State and Federal Reclamation Bonding Programs: Lessons Learned and Current Challenges," Interstate Mining Compact Commission, St. Louis, Mo., 2013
  • "“First, Do No Harm” Should Extend to the Environment," Becker's Hospital Review, January 16, 2013
  • "A new era in the coal industry under Clean Water Act Section 404," Mining Committee Newsletter, Vol. 6, No. 1, ABA Section of Environment, Energy & Resources, May 24, 2012
  • "Reclamation Bonds, The Law of Commercial Surety and Miscellaneous Bonds," with W. Blaine Early III,  Second Edition, American Bar Association Fidelity & Surety Law Committee (with George Thompson), May 2012
  • "Current and Emerging Legal Issues on Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining," with W. Blaine Early III,  webinar presented by BloombergBNA, February 28, 2012
  • "Waters of the United States: Federal Jurisdiction Over Activities on My Land?," Kentucky Bar Association's Bench and Bar, November 2011
  • "Understanding Waters of the United States and Federal Jurisdiction on Private Property," presented at University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, November 2011
  • "The Law of Commercial Surety and Miscellaneous Bonds (Second Edition)," Chapter: Reclamation Bonds, American Bar Association, Tort, Trial and Insurance Practice Section, 2011
  • "Waters of the United States: Following Clean Water Act ยง 404 Jurisdiction Upstream," Kentucky Water Laws and Regulations, HalfMoon Seminars, Lexington, Ky., March 2011
  • "“Green” marketing under FTC scrutiny," Stites & Harbison, PLLC, Client Alert, November 24, 2010
  • "Environmental/Reclamation Financial Assurances: Back to the Future," with W. Blaine Early III,  56th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Annual Institute, Banff, Alberta, Canada, July 22-24, 2010 (click here to view paper)
  • "Coal Industry Land Law," HalfMoon Seminars, Lexington, Ky., January 22, 2010
  • "Understanding the reclamation surety relationship before and after operator default," Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, Special Institute on Mine Closure, Financial Assurance and Final Reclamation, November 5, 2009
  • "The Suretys Perspective: Deja Vu All Over Again?," U.S. Department of Interior Office of Surface Mining Appalachian States Annual Meeting, June 2009
  • "EPA Issues Final CAFO Rule," University of Kentucky Economic and Policy Update, June 2009
  • "Construction Stormwater Permit Proposed Rule," Stites & Harbison, PLLC, Client Alert, January 14, 2009
  • "Primer for Engineering and Technical Professionals regarding Reclamation and Environmental Surety Bonds," published Nov. 2004, Mining Engineering, and presented to the Society of Mining, Metallurgy and Exporation Annual Meeting, Cincinnati, Oh., 2003
  • "Surety’s Rights and Obligations Under SMCRA," with W. Blaine Early III,  Energy and Mineral Law Foundation's 29th Mineral Law Conference, October 14-15, 2004
  • "Surety Bonds and Trouble in the Mining Industry," Conference of Government Mining Attorneys, Knoxville, Tenn., 2003
  • "Optimizing Land Reclamation and Environmental Protection: Making the Most Out of Surety Agreements," Interstate Mining Compact Commission 2002 Annual Meeting
  • "Regulation of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations and the Horse Industry: EPA is Mucking About!," 16th Annual National Conference on Equine Law, Lexington, Ky., 2001
  • "Legal Considerations Pertaining to Use and Disposal of Coal Combustion By-Products," presented to the Energy & Mineral Law Foundation, 1999
  • "Replacing Nationwide Permit 26 - The Next Battle Over Wetland Development," The Construction Lawyer, Journal of the American Bar Association Forum on the Construction Industry, Vol. 18, No. 1, 1998
  • "In Front of the Curve: A Call for Awareness of Environmental Liability for CCBs in the United States," presented at Air and Waste Management Association Annual Meeting in Toronto, Ontario, 1997, and presented at the International Ash Utilization Symposium, Lexington, Ky., 1995

Before Stites & Harbison

Mr. Gorton practiced law with Buchanan Ingersoll in Philadelphia. Prior to attending law school, he was the manager of the Kentucky office of Skelly & Loy Engineers-Consultants and had managed natural resource development and environmental remediation projects throughout the United States. At Skelly & Loy, he developed the mine land reclamation programs under the Title IV of the Surface Mine, Control and Reclamation Act for Alaska and Virginia. He also managed technical projects for the U.S. Department of Interior, U.S. Bureau of Mines, U.S. EPA, Appalachian Regional Commission and numerous state agency and private sector clients.

More Than Stites & Harbison

He is Chair of The Kentucky Bicycle and Bikeways Commission which was developed by the Kentucky Legislature to advise the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet regarding cycling issues and advocate for the cycling public.  He has also advised the Kentucky Rails to Trails Council, Inc. on a pro bono basis, formed as part of the nationwide movement to develop abandoned rail beds into trails for recreation use. Bill is Assistant Professor/Adjunct at the University of Kentucky in the Natural Resource and Environmental Science Program teaching Environmental Law and Regulation. He is also a Trustee to the Energy and Mineral Law Foundation. Bill has acted as a member of the Board of Directors of PlanGraphics, Inc., a geographic information systems development and consulting firm.

Besides Stites & Harbison

Bill is an avid cyclist and spinning instructor at the Lexington YMCA.

In 2010, Bill joined a group of amateur cyclists who participated in six stages of the Tour de France.

Professional Accolades

Martindale-Hubbell® AV-Preeminent® Peer Review Rated

Best Lawyers in America®, Energy Law, Environmental Law, Mining Law and Natural Resources Law for 2013 (2007-18)

ChambersUSA, "America's Leading Lawyers for Business," Environment, Natural Resources & Utilities (2012-17)

Benchmark Litigation magazine, Litigation Star (2015, 2016, 2017)

International Law Office and Lexology, Client Choice Award for Excellence in Client Service (2015)

Community Involvement

  • Kentucky Bicycle and Bikeway Commission, Chair
  • Kentucky Rails to Trails Council, Inc., pro-bono legal counsel
  • Energy and Mineral Law Foundation, Trustee

Press Releases