E. Donald Elliott

E. Donald Elliott

Senior Of Counsel

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Covington & Burling LLP
One CityCenter
850 Tenth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001-4956
Tel: +1 202 662 5631



  • Yale Law School, J.D., 1974
  • Yale University, B.A., 1970
    • summa cum laude

Judicial Clerkship

  • Hon. David L. Bazelon, U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, 1975-1976
  • Hon. Gerhard A. Gesell, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia, 1974-1975

Bar Admissions

  • District of Columbia
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
  • U.S. Supreme Court

Don Elliott, co-chair of the firm’s Environmental Practice, has over 30 years of experience in environmental law, administrative law and product liability and toxic torts, including having served as Assistant Administrator and General Counsel of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and as national coordinating counsel in litigation for several companies.  According to Chambers, Mr. Elliott “brings a vast amount of experience to his broad environmental practice” while Who’s Who Legal notes that he is a “key figure” in the US and provides clients with “concise and practical” advice.

Mr. Elliott has extensive experience in crisis management involving product and site contamination issues, as well as environmental and legislative advocacy for companies, trade associations and governments.  He has successfully defended automotive, energy, mining, real estate, and pharmaceutical companies in major government environmental enforcement cases and in private litigation, including toxic tort and product liability.  Many of his cases have involved asbestos, silica, lead, chemicals, special nuclear material and mining waste.

Mr. Elliott has special expertise and a long-standing interest in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  His interest extends back to his clerkship on the D.C. Circuit in the mid-1970’s when many of the key NEPA precedents were decided. He has continued to be active in the field ever since, counseling numerous companies and project developers on NEPA compliance.  In recent years, several hedge funds have retained him as a NEPA expert to advise them on pending litigation.  He also teaches on the subject at Yale Law School, and has been active in efforts to reform and speed up the NEPA process.

Mr. Elliott has extensive regulatory experience in Clean Air, water, wetlands, waste and chemical regulation.  During his tenure at EPA, Mr. Elliott played a crucial role in drafting and implementing the Oil Pollution Act and the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act, including helping to draft the acid rain permit trading statute and regulations.  He was also responsible for negotiating two out of the first three contracts for tradable rights for acid rain in private practice.  The acid rain program has become the model for carbon trading worldwide. Mr. Elliott also has significant experience in class actions, civil justice reform and complex product liability and toxic tort litigations.  He advises several companies on labeling issues, particularly anti-microbial and green marketing claims.

Mr. Elliott has extensive experience in matters involving occupational safety and health (OSHA).  He has represented companies and trade associations in OSHA rulemakings, enforcement proceedings (including fatalities and claims of multiple violations) and counseled them on compliance questions and improving their safety and training systems.  He has particular expertise on matters involving asbestos, exposure to chemicals in the workplace and the automotive and construction industries.

Mr. Elliott has worked on many complex domestic and international corporate transactions, legislative and regulatory matters, audits and enforcement cases and SEC disclosure issues.  He has advised companies in over 50 significant transactions, including private equity, mergers, asset and real estate sales, reorganizations, IPOs and other public and private offerings.

Mr. Elliott's clients have included major automotive, energy, utility, chemical, financial services, oil, engineering life sciences and pharmaceutical companies, as well as trade associations and manufacturers of a wide variety of products.

Mr. Elliott also has expertise in Food & Drug and energy law, representing energy companies, biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and medical device companies in transactions.

Mr. Elliott is a leading academic expert on the regulation of nanotechnology in the U.S. and EU, and teaches and writes on this subject.

Representative Matters

  • Advised Bloomberg LP concerning construction of solar power project for data center in Skillman, NJ, including preservation of items of historical and cultural significance.
  • Assisted AstraZeneca in developing its worldwide corporate risk management policy.
  • Represents Mueller Industries and other mining and metal companies in legacy mining, manufacturing and smelter site contamination issues involving state and federal governments and private claimants.
  • Lead negotiator on the $1.1 billion, five plant NSR settlement between a Midwestern power company, EPA, and 3 states, which the New York Times called “one of the most significant settlements ever for cleaning the air.”
  • Lead negotiator in the $1.8 billion civil and criminal consent decrees between the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority and the federal government.
  • Represented the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in the clean-up of unexploded ordnance (UXO) at the Vieques bombing range.
  • Served as lead punitive damage defense counsel in Abate v. GAF, a 8,800-plaintiff asbestos case.
  • Assisted Aearo Technologies, a safety equipment company, in several private equity transactions culminating in its $1.2 billion acquisition.

Previous Experience

  • Environmental Protection Agency, Assistant Administrator and General Counsel
  • General Electric Company, Special Litigation Counsel, Corporate Environmental Programs

Honors and Rankings

  • National Law Journal, “Top 25 Environmental Attorneys in the US”
  • International Corporate Law, “Top 400 Worldwide”
  • Best Lawyers in America
  • Chambers USA
  • Legal 500 US
  • Martindale-Hubbell, AV Preeminent Peer Review Rated
  • Washington DC Super Lawyers
  • Who’s Who in American Law
  • Who's Who of Business Lawyers
  • Who's Who of Environmental Lawyers
  • Who’s Who in the World

Memberships and Affiliations

  • Fellow, American College of Environmental Lawyers
  • Yale Law School, Adjunct Professor of environmental and administrative law, food and drug law, renewable energy policy, civil procedure and complex civil litigation
  • Administrative Conference of the United States, Senior Fellow
  • Member, Board of Directors, Environmental Law Institute
  • Member, Board of Directors, Center for Clean Air Policy
  • Member of the advisory boards for the NYU Institute for Policy Integrity (Chair), the Environment Reporter, the Journal of Industrial Ecology, and the Carnegie Mellon University Center for the Study and Improvement of Regulation.
  • National Academy of Sciences Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology, Former Member
  • Formerly served on the Regulation Committee of the Administrative Conference of the United States, the OTA Committee on Innovative Regulatory Techniques, the Federal Courts Study Committee, the Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology and Government and Yale’s "Next Generation Project.”
  • National Environmental Policy Institute, Former Sector Chair
  • American Bar Association’s Administrative Law & SONREEL Committees, Former Vice Chair
  • Mr. Elliott is a frequent contributor to articles relating to energy policy issues.  He recently was interviewed in the ENDS Europe Daily article, "EU Regulation of Fracking Could Reassure Public" (06/13/2013).

Publications and Speeches

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