Steven Burns Headshot

Steven A. Burns

  • (205) 226-8736
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  • Georgetown University Law Center
    J.D., 1995
  • Rhodes College
    B.A., 1990, cum laude
Bar Admissions
  • Georgia, 2023
  • Alabama, 2004
  • District of Columbia, 1998
  • Virginia, 1995
About Steven
  • What types of matters do you work on most often?

    I help electric utilities and businesses manage their waste and chemical obligations, including coal ash, and respond to regulation and legal risk. Coal ash compliance is a particular challenge right now, with the threat of citizen suits, evolving guidance from EPA, highly technical matters of geology and engineering, and tremendous challenges of logistics and public relations. I also help our clients with property-related issues, including contamination response under RCRA and CERCLA, land use issues such as wetlands permitting and threatened and endangered species, and due diligence on potential acquisitions of land and facilities.

    New developments continue to unfold, as always. Many clients are working actively to think through how best to approach issues of justice and equity in the environmental space and more broadly. Climate change is driving major changes in how we think about how we produce, deliver, and store energy. And of course, PFAS regulation and remediation promise to keep environmental practitioners busy for years to come.

    Waterway issues are another constant. We have a waterway infrastructure that provides very fuel-efficient transportation for bulk goods and containers, but many inland waterways are severely underfunded and in need of significant improvements. Beyond the well-known wetland program under Clean Water Act Section 404, the Corps also administers a variety of other programs for projects that touch Corps projects or navigable waterways.

  • What previous experiences, prior to your work at Balch, influence your practice?
  • What do you find most exciting about your work?

Select Matters

  • Coal ash: Advise electric utilities on the disposal and recycling of coal ash, flue gas desulfurization (FGD) waste or gypsum, and other CCR, including potential issues under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), CWA, groundwater requirements, and dust issues.
  • Waste, spill response, and contamination: Advise clients under federal and state solid, hazardous, and universal waste management programs, including contamination and spill and incident responses and changes made under RCRA or CERCLA
  • Environmental justice and ESG: Identify best practices and strategies for compliance, best business practices, and disclosure for environmental, social, and corporate governance issues, including climate and environmental and social justice.
  • Waterways: Advise waterway associations and users on waterway issues, including water resource project funding, Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) legislation, water supply, and Corps of Engineers regulatory programs such as Section 10, Section 404, and Section 408.
    • Officer (Counsel and Secretary) for the National Waterways Conference.
    • Expert in Corps of Engineers authorities for operations, regulations, and funding mechanisms, including annual appropriations and public-private partnership structures and opportunities.
  • Procedural obligations for federal permitting: Counsel clients seeking federal permits and approvals on the application of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), consultations under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and environmental justice review.
  • Government inspections and information requests: Manage regulatory inspections and government information requests under Clean Air Act (CAA) Section 114, CERLCA Section 104(e), the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and related authorities. 
    Chemical management:
    Advise clients as to chemical management programs, including the Risk Management Plan (RMP) rule, the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program and related Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) issues, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), and the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program of DHS.
  • Homeland security: Advise business clients on preparedness and resilience issues, including business continuity planning and risk protections under the SAFETY Act.
  • Due diligence for mergers and acquisitions: Perform environmental due diligence and review in support of purchase and sale of electric generating units and manufacturing facilities and for corporate mergers and acquisitions.



      Speaking Engagements


        • Georgetown University Law Center, J.D., 1995
        • Rhodes College, B.A., 1990, cum laude
        Bar Admissions
        • Georgia, 2023
        • Alabama, 2004
        • District of Columbia, 1998
        • Virginia, 1995
        Professional Affiliations
        • National Waterways Conference (NWC), Counsel and Secretary
        • NWC Legislative Policy Committee, Chair
        • Air and Waste Management Association (A&WMA), Alabama Chapter Board of Directors, Three-Time Past Chair
        Awards & Accolades
        • Chambers USA, Environment 
        • The Best Lawyers in America®, Environmental Law, 2016-present
        Community Involvement
        • Kiwanis Club of Birmingham
        • Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, LGBTQ Fund Advisory Committee