Find an Energy Law Lawyer

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), established during the energy crisis during the 1970s, is not a regulatory agency enforcing laws on energy companies. Its mission is to advance the national, economic and energy security of the United States. This includes promoting scientific and technological innovation in support of the mission and promoting a diverse supply and delivery of reliable and affordable energy. The Department is also responsible for environmental cleanup of the national nuclear weapons complex.

Federal energy laws include, primarily, Conservation of Power and Water Resources Regulations (under Title 18 of the Code of Federal Regulations) and Energy Regulations (under Title 10, CFR). But many federal environmental laws affect DOE programs; these include the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act, Hazardous Material Transportation Act, Pollution Prevention Act, Toxic Substances Control Act, Emergency Planning and Community-Right-To-Know Act, among others.

The energy industry is affected by a variety of statutes and regulations from other agencies including, for example, the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Pipeline Safety, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the U.S. Department of Interior, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Under DOE authority, the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) was created; this agency oversees America's natural gas, oil and electricity markets. It also handles complaints, resolves disputes and litigates lawsuits over issues that arise in those markets.

Another energy governing entity is the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC). The council's mission is to ensure an adequate, safe electric system in the U.S. and Canada. NERC conducts reliability assessments for upcoming summer and winter peak-demand periods; it also investigates blackouts when they occur.

Green Stuff — Renewable Energy

The Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) is involved in establishing programs that enhance energy efficiency and promote development of renewable energy sources such as ocean and solar energy, wind and hydropower, hydrogen fueling stations, hybrid gasoline-electric cars and biofuels. To that end, DOE in February 2005, for example, awarded $87.5 million to 12 vehicle efficiency projects. Programs now provide tax incentives for ethanol production, and the federal government increased its budget for renewable fuels initiatives.

Along with federal initiatives, many states and cities throughout the U.S. are creating incentives and setting targets for increasing renewable energy production. Your local utility company or your state energy office should be able to provide information on initiatives regarding renewable energy in your area.

EERE also encourages consumers to shop for “green appliances,” which are more energy efficient or more effective at water conservation.

Roles of Energy Lawyers

Energy lawyers advise utility companies. They also assist organizations and investors involved in energy project development with the necessary contractual documents, licenses, proposals, etc. Attorneys also assist utility companies in deregulating markets as they open up to competition.

By Kathleen Goolsby           

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