Scott R. Thistle

Bar/Court Admissions
  • Pennsylvania
  • Delaware
  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania
  • J.D., Law Review editor, Villanova University School of Law, 1985
  • B.A., cum laude, Bucknell University, 1982

After three decades in practice, Scott has built an estimable reputation in the environmental law community as a skillful, knowledgeable, experienced, and effective regulatory, compliance, and transactional lawyer. His practice style is marked by integrity, professionalism, responsiveness, and diligence, and he is highly respected and trusted by his clients and peers. Scott has an “AV Preeminent” Peer Rating with Martindale-Hubbell.

Scott zealously advocates on behalf of Fortune 500 corporations with national and international reach, manufacturing and commercial entities, real estate developers, municipalities and municipal authorities, lenders, private equity funds, remediation contractors, nonprofit organizations, and individuals. He has served as the principal national environmental counsel for two Fortune 500 companies headquartered regionally and with global presence.

After clerking for Justice John J. McNeilly of the Delaware Supreme Court in his first year out of law school, Scott began his career in environmental law as Assistant Counsel with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources (now, Environmental Protection) (“the Department,” or “PA DEP”). He was counsel to all of the Central Office water-related programs, advising his agency clients on the legal ramifications of their actions affecting the regulated community and other regulatory agencies, developing statewide legislation, regulations, and policy, and litigating and negotiating permits issued by the Department that presented questions with statewide implication involving the scope of the Department’s authority.

Since entering private practice at Cohen & Grigsby over 26 years ago, Scott’s practice has been focused on environmental compliance, permitting, and regulatory issues; environmental representation in business and real estate transactions; environmental litigation; negotiations with state and federal agencies; brownfields and environmental investigations and cleanups; environmental insurance coverage litigation; and OSHA compliance.

Scott currently provides comprehensive environmental compliance and regulatory services for a Fortune 500 client involving the operations of its multiple businesses throughout the U.S., as well as the remedial activities it is conducting at numerous current and former facilities around the country.

He worked closely with senior counsel at one of the Firm’s Global 500 clients on a major, multi-phase restructuring of one of the client’s three principal business groups. The transaction necessitated not only an identification of those environmental, health, and safety permits that needed to be transferred or for which agency notice was required, but also an intricate analysis of the complex indemnity obligations for environmental liabilities owed among the various current and former client subsidiaries, and the proper internal allocations of those obligations, for purposes of an eventual spin-off of the restructured business group.

Scott’s other representative transactions have included:

  • Obtaining a zero percent allocation for a client at one of the nation’s then-largest Superfund sites. As a result, the client, who had no actual nexus to the site, was the only party to benefit from contribution protection in the litigation’s global settlement with the federal and state governments without having to make any settlement payment.
  • Negotiating numerous consent agreements and decrees with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“USEPA”), PA DEP, and other state and local environmental agencies. These have included agreements to: (1) resolve inherited historic air compliance issues and Title V permitting for a fiberboard manufacturer; (2) upgrade and expand a Northwestern Pennsylvania city’s sewage treatment facilities; and (3) favorably settle a Fortune 500 client’s EPCRA reporting noncompliances at facilities in two EPA Regions, to name just a few.
  • Assisting an alternative energy client to obtain a critical permit from PA DEP on an expedited basis to develop a new wind farm.
  • After conducting targeted due diligence, negotiating on behalf of a developer a favorable agreement with a leading international, Pittsburgh-based manufacturer for the purchase of a former R&D facility, including the negotiation of a Pollution Legal Liability insurance policy. The site presented significant redevelopment potential as a “brownfield.”
  • Developing and, in conjunction with an environmental consultant he brought in to assist, implementing a strategy to investigate and perform a risk-based “closure” of historical contamination from a former municipal incinerator at a currently-used site in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The strategy, which needed to address significant local sensitivities, ultimately resulted in the successful sale of the property by the client.
  • On behalf of a large Pittsburgh-based company expanding its gas station locations in Western Pennsylvania and Ohio, drafting and participating in intense negotiations on protective environmental provisions in the purchase agreement. The agreement constituted the linchpin document of the client’s successful bid package with an international oil company.
  • As Liaison Counsel for a group of third-party defendants in a Superfund case based in Erie, negotiating a consent dismissal (with prejudice) of the third-party defendants without any of the parties having to make settlement payments.
  • Orchestrating numerous Act 2 closures at brownfields sites in Pennsylvania.
  • Representing a project owner in an asbestos NESHAP (emission standard) appeal before the Federal Environmental Appeals Board.
  • Directing targeted, cost-effective due diligence in a client’s acquisition, from a large public utility, of a New York distributor of heating oil, propane, and gasoline with well over 100 facilities. Scott also helped to manage known and potential environmental liabilities through the drafting and negotiation of appropriate purchase agreement terms.
  • Successfully navigating through New Jersey’s Industrial Site Recovery Act (“ISRA”) process to assist several different clients in both buying and selling historically-contaminated industrial properties.
  • Advising a bank financing an Act 2 brownfields redevelopment in Westmoreland County.
  • On behalf of a private college in Southwestern Pennsylvania, participating in the first audit under USEPA Region III’s voluntary environmental compliance audit initiative with the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania. As a result of the audit and resulting work product, EPA waived all potential noncompliance penalties against the client.
  • Assisting a client to make a Voluntary Disclosure to USEPA under the Agency’s Self-Audit Policy with respect to certain reports the client had unknowingly failed to file under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. As a result of the Voluntary Disclosure and corrected filings, EPA waived all penalties.
  • While at DER, preparing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s contribution to a national study of the application of the Public Trust Doctrine across the country: Putting the Public Trust Doctrine to Work (Coastal States Organization, November 1990).

Scott was on the faculty of the 2017 Pennsylvania Environmental Law Forum, discussing federal and state regulatory and case decision updates related to site contamination and cleanup. The Forum is put on every year by the Pennsylvania Bar Institute and the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Environmental & Energy Law Section.

He presented a program on the evolution of federal, state, and local shale gas regulation and enforcement for a delegation of Members of the Lower Saxony State Parliament, Germany, visiting Pittsburgh as part of their visit to the United States under the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program, April 2015. He also offered similar input for a Roundtable Discussion with Jürgen Trittan, Bundestag Member and former German Minister for the Environment, sponsored by the American Council on Germany and the Honorable Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany, June 2015.

Scott has been a faculty member of programs sponsored by the Pennsylvania Bar Institute (Wetlands, 1989), the National Business Institute (Avoiding Environmental Liability in Pennsylvania, January 2001 and Advanced Real Estate Law in Pennsylvania, June 2001), and the C&G Academy at Cohen & Grigsby (Environmental Aspects of the Business Deal, 2008).

He has been a presenter for the Northwest Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Foundry Society (Liability of Upper Management for Environmental Policy and Compliance, 2005), the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Project Management Institute (The New Pennsylvania Residual Waste Regulations, 1992), and the Business of Brownfields Conference (“Ask the Expert” Kiosk: Environmental Due Diligence and Act 2, 2004), in addition to client training seminars.

He was a facilitator and presenter for the Regional Air Quality Roundtable, a former not-for-profit organization of industrial and manufacturing firms with the purpose of addressing emerging air quality issues during the 1990s. The Roundtable was cosponsored by Cohen & Grigsby, P.C. and the former Earth Sciences Consultants, Inc.

  • Coeditor-in-Chief, Quarterly Newsletter published by the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Environmental & Energy Law Section, 1995-2002. Also responsible for the “Regulatory Developments” section of the Newsletter.
  • Governing Council Member, Environmental & Energy Law Section, Pennsylvania Bar Association, 1999-2002; Section Nominating Committee, 2003
  • Governing Council Member, Environment & Energy Law Section, Allegheny County Bar Association, 2000-2003; Section Nominating Committee, 2004
  • Articles for The Lawyer’s Journal, Dynamic Business, PBA’s Environmental & Energy Law Section Newsletter, and the Cohen & Grigsby Review/C&G Client Alerts
  • Contribution to The Pennsylvania Lawyer feature “Lawyers Who Create Art,” July/August 2018
  • Scott is an active member of the Allegheny Center Alliance Church on the North Side of Pittsburgh. He has sung with the Pittsburgh Camerata, a professional chamber choir, and currently sings with the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh.