Join The Discussion

 

New retailer, restaurant coming to Sundance Square

Sundance Square announced today it is adding a new retailer and a Korean restaurant to its misx. Women’s retailer White House Black Market will open a 3,815-square-foot store at the corner of Houston

read more >

AT&T looks to hook up Fort Worth and area cities with fast fiber network

Fort Worth and several area cities are among the 100 cities where AT&T will expand its GigaPower ultra-fast fiber network.

read more >

UT Arlington's new president sets a standard

Since taking the reins as the eighth president of the University of Texas at Arlington nearly a year ago, Vistasp Karbhari is committed to advancing the university’s national and international profile while encouraging and celebrating student, faculty and staff success.

read more >

Hanover Property plans $300M Fort Worth residential development

Hanover Property Co. of Dallas has snapped up 358 acres at FM 156 Blue Mound Road and U.S. 287 in North Fort Worth for a $300 million, master-planned development.

read more >

Houston attorney gives $1M endowment to Texas A&M University School of Law

Anthony G. Buzbee and his law firm have given a $1 million endowment to the Texas A&M University School of Law in Fort Worth.

read more >

 

 

Law students, lawyers get energy lowdown
 

Law students, lawyers get energy lowdown

 

 

A. Lee Graham

lgraham@bizpress.net

 

Solar energy’s future may be one of untapped and unlimited potential, but at least one attorney casts doubt on the industry as a client prospects for lawyers.

“There’s not a lot of lawyering in solar,” said John B. Holden, an attorney with the Dallas office of Jackson Walker LLP.

Speaking March 22 at Texas Wesleyan Law Review’s Fifth Annual Energy Symposium in downtown Fort Worth, Holden cited fewer property issues with solar contracts compared with those involving wind, geothermal, natural gas and other energy resources.

The primary challenge with solar, Holden argued, is moving energy generated from remote solar installations to densely populated urban areas where it is used.

Of total U.S. energy usage in 2011, only .158 quads came from solar, compared with 19.7 for coal, 24.9 for natural gas and 35.3 for petroleum, for example, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. A quad is 1 quadrillion British thermal units, an amount of energy equivalent to 170 million barrels of oil.

While his firm represents power companies in hammering out solar installation contracts, less client interaction is involved compared with other types of cases.

“We do the power contracts, but it’s not like you’re out there with the landowner,” Holden said.

Because solar installations mostly operate in remote desert locations, and involve fewer landowner interests than with other energy negotiations, property issues are commensurately smaller.

Still, Holden was not entirely dismissive of solar as one part of the future energy supply.

“There is a place for solar power,” Holden allowed.

Greater potential – as a source of power and legal work – lies with wind power, Holden said. “I like wind, but I think wind has some issues.”

Those challenges include birds and bats known to fly into wind turbines that generate electricity, as well as property condemnation issues arising from having to run large power lines through residential properties.

Holden told a roomful of attorneys and law students at the symposium that wind energy whips up several potential legal issues. One involves easements, needed for energy companies to work on private property, with another involving property rights stemming from allowed property uses.

Holden recalled a case where his firm preserved ranching and hunting rights while allowing drilling on the same land. The key is accommodating both activities simultaneously, but on different parts of the parcel.

“The developer was concerned that people with high-powered rifles might shoot at turbines and the workmen working on them by accident,” Holden said.

As with oil and gas leases, wind energy developers often aggregate enough land to making contracting it worthwhile. They option property for an initial time period and extend that term as development progresses.

Another issue requiring legal assistance is negotiating wind energy’s purchase price. Wind developers often pre-sell their product at a fixed rate, which is often lower than the market rate.

“If you really negotiate to protect yourself, you want the highest price, but that’s iffy,” Holden said.

A recent case saw his firm negotiate what Holden called a “basket price” combining those at different rates. “It gets pretty sophisticated,” he said.

Equally sophisticated – and far more controversial – are ongoing battles over whether hydraulic oil and gas drilling, also known as “fracking,” contaminates air and groundwater or causes earthquakes.

Since 2009, more than 50 lawsuits have been filed nationwide involving hydraulic fracturing in some capacity, according to a Columbia School of Law report released in February. Some of those cases only discuss the issue while not making it a central focus.

Some of those cases allege groundwater contamination by fracking, in which a pressurizing mix of water and chemicals is injected into the ground to release natural gas. Texas and Pennsylvania claim most of those lawsuits, at 14 and 15, respectively, but no court has ever found a connection between the drilling practice and groundwater contamination.

< back

Email   email
hide
Perry vs Cuomo
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has challenged New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to a debate on economic policy. If it is held, who would win?