Seth D. Jaffe

Coordinator, Environmental Practice Group

Environmental issues can be complicated and intractable.  I solve my clients’ environmental problems as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Seth Jaffe is a leading practitioner in environmental compliance and related litigation. He works on a wide range of environmental law issues, representing clients in the permitting/licensing of new facilities and offering ongoing guidance on permitting and enforcement related matters under federal and state laws, with a focus on the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. Seth also advises on wetlands and waterways regulation. His clients include electric generating facilities, companies in the pharmaceutical, printing and chemical industries, and education and health care institutions.

Seth has extensive experience in hazardous waste matters under federal and state Superfund laws. He has defended multiple clients in administrative or litigation proceedings brought by the government and/or private parties. He has also counseled plaintiffs seeking recovery from private parties of response costs incurred at Superfund sites.

Seth also helps clients permit large development projects, including assistance with environmental reviews under NEPA and related state laws.

Consistently recognized by Chambers USA, The Best Lawyers in America and Massachusetts Super Lawyers, Seth is one of the authors of the Law and the Environment Blog, www.lawandenvironment.com, which provides real-world perspectives on current developments in environmental law and regulation. He is a past President of the American College of Environmental Lawyers.

Before joining Foley Hoag, he clerked for United States District Judge Walter Jay Skinner.


  • Yale Law School, J.D., 1986
  • Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government, M.P.P., 1983
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology, S.B., Phi Beta Kappa, 1981

Bar and Court Admissions

  • Massachusetts
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit


  • Represented Takeda, one of the largest biopharmaceutical employers in Massachusetts, in defense of claims brought by the Attorney General alleging violations of the state Clean Air Act. Negotiated settlement to implement operational changes that avoided the need to install costly treatment technology.
  • Represented a large world-wide manufacturer of building materials in defending against claims brought by the Attorney General alleging violations of a number of statutes, including the state Clean Air Act
  • Representing a major specialty chemicals manufacturer, in response to claims asserted by EPA under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
  • Represented MilliporeSigma, a manufacturer of products for the life sciences and pharmaceutical industries, in defense of claims brought by EPA under the Clean Water Act.  Assisted in negotiating settlement providing time for Millipore Sigma to upgrade treatment facilities to accommodate planned growth.  
  • Represent major manufacturer and septic systems against claims alleged by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection concerning the effectiveness of the septic systems.
  • Represented numerous developers of solar projects on both brownfields and greenfields in connection with stormwater, wetlands, endangered species, and related environmental issues.
  • Represented Boston University in siting the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories, assisting with approvals under both the National Environmental Policy Act and the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act, and defending against challenges of both approvals, in both federal and state courts.
  • Represent major Boston Museum in connection with its efforts to make the downtown Boston waterfront more inclusive and resilient to the impacts of climate change.
  • Represent various electric generating companies in connection with the development of regulations requiring reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases.
  • Represented a state transportation agency in connection with efforts to reduce GHG emissions from transportation fuels.  
  • Represent Settling Generators in connection with the implementation of response actions at the Coakley Landfill in North Hampton, New Hampshire.
  • Represent the Settling Defendants in connection with the implementation of response actions at the Tinkham Garage Site in Londonderry, New Hampshire.  
  • Represent W. R. Grace in connection with the implementation of response actions at multiple sites.
  • Represent various parties implementing cleanups under a range of state Superfund statutes.
  • Have represented numerous parties bringing or defending cost recovery or contribution claims under federal and state Superfund law, including the provisions of Section 4A of the Massachusetts Superfund law. 
  • Obtained precedent-setting federal court decision, affirmed on appeal, finding that defendant which admitted to arranging for the transportation of hazardous substances to a site was nonetheless not liable, because its wastes had not caused the need for any response costs.
  • Represent companies in all aspects of due diligence in corporate transactions, including Phase I site assessments, environmental audits of ongoing operations, and negotiation of deal language.
  • Represent numerous companies in connection with purchase and sale of contaminated or potentially contaminated real estate, including taking advantage of provisions providing incentives for the redevelopment of brownfields property.


  • Co-author, GCSE Plastics Reports: France and the United States: Comparative Law Analysis and Recommendations Regarding Plastic Waste, March 2022.
  • GHG Regulations: A Cautionary Tale, FIERCE ENERGY (July 2014)
  • Supreme Court GHG Ruling Q&A, ENVIRONMENT ENERGY PRO (June 2014) 
  • Supreme Court Takes on GHG Regulation,  POWER ENGINEERING  (Co-Author with Robynn Andracsek, December 2013) 

Honors & Involvement

  • Recipient of MONDAQ Thought Leadership Award for Energy and Natural Resources (2022)
  • Named BEST LAWYERS’ Boston Litigation - Environmental Lawyer of the Year (2013, 2016 and 2020)
  • Named BEST LAWYERS’ Boston Environmental Law Lawyer of the Year (2010, 2015, 2018 and 2021)
  • Ranked by CHAMBERS USA: AMERICA'S LEADING LAWYERS FOR BUSINESS as one of Massachusetts' leading environmental lawyers (2003-2022)
  • Recognized by INTERCONTINENTAL FINANCE MAGAZINE as an ICFM 500 Leading Lawyer
  • Named as one of the Top 100 Super Lawyers in Massachusetts
  • Fellow, American College of Environmental Lawyers; President, 2013
  • Environmental League of Massachusetts, Board Member, 2005-present; Chairman of the Board, 2011-2016
  • NAIOP Massachusetts Chapter, Member, Government Affairs Advisory Committee; Co-Chair, Environmental Committee, 2005-2013
  • Member, EarthX Law Advisory Council, 2020-present

Speaking Engagements

  • Plastic Waste & Pollution, American College of Environmental Lawyers (June 2022) 
  • International Summit on Plastic Pollution (April 2022)
  • "Ethics: Environmental Issues And The Public,” Texas Environmental Superconference (August 2020)
  • “Trends in Development and Environmental Review,” NAIOP Massachusetts seminar “Navigating the Permitting Maze: A Crash Course on Permitting in Massachusetts,” (September 2019)
  • Clean Air Act Citizen Suits: Defense and Litigation Strategies,” Strafford Webinar (July 2017)
  • "Regulatory Changes/Updates," NECA Environmental Conference (June 2017)
  • “Climate Change: Are We Now on a Path to Real Decarbonization?,” Yale Law School Alumni Weekend (October 2016)
  • "Defending Against Citizen Suits Under Environmental Laws," Strafford Webinar (July 2016)