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What is Energy Law?

Legal practice in the energy industry involves economic, scientific, and engineering issues in a regulatory context. For instance, energy lawyers may work with companies and public utilities to handle the taxation of energy (such as "extraction taxes"), to procure licenses and ownership rights for energy-rich land, and adjudication regarding these energy rights. It is highly unlikely that consumers would consult with energy attorneys.

Terms to Know

  • BTU: A British Thermal Unit (BTU) is a measure of the heating value of a fuel. It is the amount of heat energy required to raise the temperature of one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit.
  • Distribution: For natural gas, it is the act of distributing gas from the city gate or plant to the customer. For electric, the act of distributing electric power using law voltage transmission lines that deliver power to retail customers.
  • Environmental Impact Statement: The statement required of federal agencies by Section 102(C) of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, for major federal actions that may significantly affect the quality of the human environment.
  • Hydropower Re-License: A major or minor license issued by the Commission that authorizes the licensee to receive a new license term for an existing licensed project. The new license term may be from 30 to 50 years.
  • Fracking: Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing -- forcing water and chemicals, at a very high pressure, into shale rock deposits deep in the ground.  

Common Work of Energy Attorneys

Energy law attorneys specialize in the energy business and work with power companies, municipal utilities, and all manner of energy producers. Much of their work involves compliance, or making sure energy companies and other involved parties are following the proper laws and regulations. Since energy extraction can be quite dangerous and potentially harmful to the environment, there are numerous safety and environmental regulations.

Additionally, energy lawyers may help energy companies secure financing and develop new projects. Energy discovery and extraction requires massive amounts of capital and often crosses international borders. Energy law attorneys also represent companies involved in litigation or arbitration.

Related Practice Areas

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