Legal Essentials for Energy Professionals

May 4, 2015 12:27 pm — May 8, 2015 12:27 pm
Washington, DC

The utility service world faces the unprecedented challenge of providing reliable, affordable, and sustainable electricity services. Navigating the competing constraints of fuel prices and availability, limited water resources, and uncertain energy and climate policy is a challenge in today’s society. Electricity professionals must work with lawyers and understand the legal framework governing their industry. Vermont Law School’s Legal Essentials for Energy Professionals is a unique course designed especially for these high-potential electricity professionals.

This rigorous, one-week course provided electricity professionals with the foundation to more fully understand how lawyers think about the role of federal and state energy commissions and how to operate effectively within these structures. Beginning with the basic functions of government and building to the interplay among state, federal, and regional oversight when planning new energy infrastructures, the course offered a broad overview of the legal basics critical to operating an effective utility company

The small classroom setting and intensive coursework provided participants the opportunity to develop new knowledge and skills, and network with peers from across the country. Team projects gave participants the opportunity to work with other forward-thinking electricity professionals. In addition, industry leaders with practical expertise taught each class, providing the participants a depth of knowledge that is unavailable anywhere else.

EXPECTATIONS 2015: Participants read 100 pages of material prior to the start of class and an additional 30 pages per evening during the course. Books and reading assignments were sent to participants at least three weeks prior to the start of the course. Participants were evaluated based on class participation and a short written examination. Participants successfully completing the course earned a certificate of success.


8:00-8:30 A.M. Breakfast and Registration
A.M. Fundamentals of the U.S. Legal System
The course began with an overview of the roles of each of the three branches of government, the relationships between the branches, and an introduction to the “fourth” branch of government—the administrative agency and the Administrative Procedure Act.—Michael Dworkin, Vermont Law School
P.M. The Energy Regulatory Landscape/Transmission and Distribution Obligations
The evolution of the regulatory paradigm over the past century provided participants with a greater appreciation for the role of federal and state energy commissions in the 21st century. In this session, participants explored the several layers of state, regional, and federal oversight of new transmission and distribution infrastructure. Interconnection regulations, cost allocation, and the recent FERC Order 1000 was also discussed.—Harvey Reiter, Stinson Leonard Street LLP
A.M./P.M. Raising Revenue From Wholesale and Retail Customers
Participants gained insight into the process for establishing retail rates through state regulatory commissions and wholesale rates through the  FERC. Topics included the cost of service ratemaking theory, the standard of review for utility investments, and the process for establishing an acceptable rate of return. Retail competition was noted in less detail.—Edward Flippen, McGuire Woods LLP, Cameron Prell, Crowell & Moring
A.M. Financing Emerging Energy Facilities: Wind, Solar, and Merchant Transmission
Participants developed an understanding of a variety of laws governing the development and financing of new energy technologies including risk allocation, risk limitation, and timing issues.—Glenn Berger, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
P.M. ISOs, RTOs, Power Pools, and Power Purchase Agreements
FERC now grants some of its oversight responsibilities to Regional Transmission Organizations throughout the country. The role of these organizations in establishing wholesale rates for electricity and incentivizing new infrastructure was discussed, along with concerns about market power.—Stuart Caplan, Dentons
A.M. Special Considerations for Public Power: Municipal Utilities, Cooperatives, and Power Marketing Agencies
This course explored the practical implications of the legal differences between traditionally regulated investor-owned utilities and municipal and cooperative utilities, including establishing retail rates and governance.—David Yaffee, Van Ness Feldman, Dave L. Mohre, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
P.M. Environmental Constraints
National environmental regulation affects where and how new energy infrastructure is built andoperated. Participants learned the basic componentsof the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, RCRA, and FRAC Act, and how they impact utility decisions.—Mark Latham, Vermont Law School
A.M. Innovation and Technology Development
Topics not usually associated with the utility industry, innovation, and IP are now playing an increasingly important role in the utility sector. Participants gained an appreciation of the importance and relevance of these issues to the future of the utility industry.—Justin Martin, EPRI
P.M. Corporate Law and Governance
Corporate law underlies utility decisions from purchased power agreements to acquiring a new business entity. This course prepared participants to understand their responsibilities when executing a contract, the characteristics, benefits, and drawbacks of different corporate structures, and the laws surrounding acquisitions and mergers.—Oliver Goodenough, Vermont Law School



Glenn J. Berger was a partner in the energy and infrastructure projects practice at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Affiliates, specializing in energy project development and power purchase agreements.

Stuart A. Caplan is a partner at SNR Denton and has more than 20 years of experience in the energy industry. He concentrates on electric and natural gas industry restructuring, renewable fossil fuel and transmission project development, and the regulatory aspects of mergers and acquisitions.

Michael Dworkin is professor of law at Vermont Law School and director on the boards of Vermont’s transmission utility and its energy-efficiency company. He previously was Chairman of a state utility commission and a management partner in a telecom engineering firm.

Edward L. Flippen retired as partner in the Energy and Utilities Group at McGuireWoods LLP in 2010, and currently serves as Counsel. Mr. Flippen has extensive experience in all manner of energy regulatory proceedings, including matters concerning approval of power plants, transmission lines, affiliate and/or financing applications.

Oliver Goodenough is professor of land and director of scholarship at Vermont Law School. He works at the intersection of law, economics, finance, media, technology, neuroscience, and behavioral biology.

Mark Latham joined the faculty of Vermont Law School in 2005 and serves as both professor of law and deputy vice dean. His areas of expertise at Vermont Law and prior private practice include CERCLA, environmental issues of corporate transactions and commercial real estate, and brownfields redevelopment.

Justin R. Martin is Senior Corporate Counsel at the Electric Power Research, Inc. Before coming to EPRI, he represented a diverse array of entities and  individuals in complex business, transactional, governmental, and litigation matters.

David L. Mohre is Executive Director, Energy & Power Division, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). He provides analysis for NRECA’s regulatory, legislative, research, and educational initiatives, as well as direct assistance to members on issues spanning energy markets to end-use applications.

Cameron Prell is a counsel in the Energy Group in Crowell & Moring’s Washington, D.C., office. His practice focuses on the business of climate change and the convergence of energy and environmental law and finance.

Harvey L. Reiter is a partner at Stinson, Morrison, Hecker LLP, where he represents clients in the natural gas, electric utility and communications industries, primarily before the FederalEnergy Regulatory Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, and the federal appellate courts.

David Yaffe serves as the managing partner of Van Ness Feldman’s electric practice, focusing on the interstate transmission grid as well as wholesale electric power transactions.