Utilities

Energy & Utilities Blog

Powered by Eckert Seamans, the Energy and Utilities Blog is your resource for updates, insights, and analysis on national and regional utilities issues.

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Overview

The Utilities Group is dedicated to addressing the unique needs of regulated utilities, and the companies that interact with them, in the electric, telecommunications, gas, water and transportation industries. Utilities and other companies operating in the regulated world need experienced attorneys at both the state and federal levels. When it comes to engaging transactional, litigation and other counsel, our clients value lawyers with well-rounded knowledge and expertise in both the industry and the policy/regulatory environment in which the utility or company operates. We provide clients the opportunity to engage a single law firm across the firm’s geographical and practice discipline boundaries by presenting a team that know the client’s industry, business and particular legal needs, in a footprint that covers Delaware, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia and West Virginia. And we do so at very reasonable rates.

The Utilities Group represents major telecommunications, energy, and water utility companies before state and federal regulatory agencies and courts and provides legal advice with respect to numerous aspects of clients’ business activities. With acknowledged competency in the field, the firm’s utility regulation lawyers are closely involved in the restructuring of the telecommunications, natural gas, and electric industries. Additionally, the group is highly experienced in compliance, licensing and litigation issues involving all types of regulated companies – from water utilities, telecommunications, natural gas, and electric competitive suppliers to transportation companies.

Representative Matters

The breadth of experience of Eckert Seamans’ Utilities attorneys positions them to counsel utility customers as well as utility service providers. The group’s legal and business acumen allows them to assist both new entrants and incumbents in utilizing effective legal and regulatory strategies to compete successfully in emerging competitive markets. Illustrative matters the group’s attorneys have handled include:

  • Represented clients in a wide range of regulatory proceedings and litigation, both at the administrative and appellate level, and before state and federal commissions;
  • Advised utilities and counter-parties on the regulatory and transactional aspects of interconnection agreements, facilities and asset leases, right-of-way agreements, energy sales and purchase contracts and right- of-way agreement and tariff disputes;
  • Represented water utilities and municipal water authorities in regulatory matters and litigation before the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC), including services territory expansion, utility takeovers and acquisitions, and municipal authority reorganizations;
  • Represented natural gas distributor companies in numerous rate and service proceedings;
  • Actively participated in electric utility restructuring and default service proceedings before the Pennsylvania PUC and the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC). Eckert Seamans’ attorneys have been at the forefront of all electric restructuring activities and have significant experience in all areas of electric industry restructuring and regulatory proceedings;
  • Represented clients in litigation and other regulatory and judicial proceedings pertaining to implementation of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and in all aspects of the restructuring of the telecommunications industry nationally. Eckert Seamans represents a number of competitive local exchange companies (CLECs) in their efforts to offer competitive alternatives to resident and business telephone customers in numerous states using both legacy, emerging broadband, and “next generation” technology, such as voice over internet protocol (VoIP);
  • Represented Pennsylvania natural gas producers in gas distribution proceedings before the PUC, securing favorable terms and conditions for “gathering” and gas transportation rates, terms, and conditions;
  • Advised Internet providers and web server companies on regulatory and other issues, including regulatory licensing and compliance;
  • Litigated local matters in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, the District of
    Columbia and Delaware, including:

    • obtaining and enforcing access to easements, property and network facilities, as well as infrastructure jointly used with other public service corporations;
    • protecting utilities’ property rights, interests and values, including defending property owners’ suits against transmission lines; advocating for broad rights in joint utility easements granted by state transportation departments; enjoining the unlawful use of infrastructure; and requiring developers, municipalities and other landowners to pay their fair share of construction costs;
    • ensuring strict compliance with filed tariffs challenged by large commercial customers or counter-parties of electric utilities;
    • Litigated national or federal matters, including establishing right of utility to construct hydropower project, defense of class action involving easements, multi-forum power purchase and fuel supply agreement disputes, environmental liability cases and breach of contract indemnification cases;
  • Represented utilities and others in regulatory matters and litigation before the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, the Maryland Public Service Commission, the District of Columbia Public Service Commission, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, the Virginia State Corporation Commission, the New York Public Service Commission, the Illinois Commerce Commission, the Missouri Public Service Commission, the Utah Public Service Commission, the Oregon Public Service Commission, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities and the North Carolina Public Service Commission, including services territory expansion, required certifications, utility takeovers and acquisitions, and municipal authority reorganizations;
  • Handled federal regulatory matters requiring extensive experience with the federal regulatory agencies relevant to utilities, including:
    • the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) complaints, FERC investigations, regulatory and compliance filings with FERC such as interconnection agreements, tariff disputes, and FERC market investigations;
    • the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) microwave licensing and compliance process, FCC pole attachment disputes and FCC spectrum acquisition, leasing and sale transactions;
    • the Surface Transportation Board (“STB”) rate issues and proceedings; 
  • Represented distribution companies in numerous rate and service proceedings;
  • Represented sellers and purchasers in the transfer of generation assets and various infrastructure.

The role of any law firm is not merely to react to changes in the law and the marketplace as they occur, but also to anticipate those changes for the benefit of its clients. Eckert Seamans is committed to providing maximum value to its utility and telecommunication clients by staying at the cutting edge of the legal and business issues affecting this highly dynamic industry sector.

Spectrum, FCC Licensing and Related Regulatory and Transactional Matters

Members of the Utilities Group represent IOUs and other Critical Infrastructure Owners (collectively, “CIOs”) with regard to FCC spectrum licensing matters, including transactional matters involving the purchase and sale of spectrum, the sharing and leasing of spectrum, assignment of spectrum authorizations, regulatory compliance, internal due diligence matters, enforcement proceedings and dispute resolution matters before the FCC. Representative clients include: Ameren, CenterPoint Energy, Dominion Virginia Power, Duquesne Light, Pepco and SEMCO. Representative matters include:

  • Representation in acquiring spectrum to support advanced metering and smart grid networks through both FCC application processes, and transactions with other spectrum licensees;
  • Negotiation of agreements with other spectrum licensees and municipal organizations for shared use, sale, lease and purchase of licensed spectrum to support advanced metering and smart grid networks;
  • Provide strategic counsel to CIOs in structuring business transactions involving assignment of licensed spectrum and other wireless infrastructure and assets;
  • Advise CIOs on internal investigations and due diligence matters to ensure compliance with FCC regulations and policies governing spectrum use, including the crafting of FCC compliance manuals;
  • Represent CIOs in dispute resolution and enforcement proceedings before the FCC involving use of licensed spectrum;
  • Negotiate relocation and rebanding agreements from 2 GHz (AWS), 800 MHz (Nextel), 12.2 GHz (DBS) and other bands;
  • Challenge unlawful retention of private land mobile licenses, and acquire same after license revocation;
  • Negotiation of short-spacing agreements and prosecution of short-spacing complaints;
  • Counsel regarding FCC/FAA tower lighting, tower painting, and tower relocation issues;
  • Sale of, and counsel to purchasers of, radio tower assets;
  • Representation of licensees in license forfeiture and notice of apparent liability proceedings;
  • Negotiation of spectrum sharing arrangements between private land mobile operators and state and local governments, agencies, and first responders;
  • Participation in FCC rulemaking proceedings related to non-commercial, industrial use of spectrum, including proceedings seeking to: reduce spectrum rights of private land mobile users, discontinue use of certain equipment types (Telex), or alter qualifications of licensees in particular bands;
  • Counsel regarding licensing mistakes and anomalies discovered or caused by licensees, FCC, or lessees of spectrum;

Advise CIOs on seeking new spectrum resources and obtaining new FCC licenses to support business operations

News & Insights

Publications:

Ky. Utility Pole Case Defines FCC Jurisdiction Boundaries

Legal Updates:

Solar Panels Aren't A Public Nuisance, Says A Recent Court Decision Regarding Neighbor's Objection To Solar Panel Installation

Utilities and Telecommunications Alert - FCC Seeks Comments Regarding Preemption of Local Restrictions on Small Cell Wireless Infrastructure

Utilities and Telecommunications Alert: FCC Permits Direct Assignment of Numbers to Non-Carrier Interconnected VOIP Providers

Utilities and Telecommunications Alert: The FCC Seeks Comment Regarding Proposed Modifications to the Pole Attachment Rate Formula

Utilities and Telecommunications Alert: FCC Reaches $7.4 Million Settlement With Verizon to Resolve Consumer Privacy Investigation

Utilities and Telecommunications Alert: FCC Seeks Comment on Cybersecurity Best Practices

Utilities and Telecommunications Alert: The LNP Alliance Urges Commission to Extend LNPA Selection Process by Two Years to Address Neutrality and IP Transition Issues

Utilities and Telecommunications Alert: FCC Issues Open Internet NPRM

Utilities and Telecommunications Alert: House Energy and Commerce Committee Presents Questions on Spectrum Policy

Utilities and Telecommunications Alert - USE OF GDSS TO DISCLOSE ANCILLARY FEES TOPS DOT CONSUMER PROTECTION COMMITTEE’S AGENDA

Utilities and Telecommunications Alert: House Energy and Commerce Committee White Paper on Revisiting the 1996 Act

Utilities and Telecommunications Alert: CTIA and Major Carriers Reach Agreement on Cellphone Unlocking

Utilities and Telecommunications Alert: FCC Releases NPRM Granting Interconnected VOIP Providers Direct Access to Number Resources, Initiates Vonage Direct Access Trial and Opens NOI on the Geographic Association of Numbers

Utilities and Telecommunications Alert: D.C. Circuit Moves Forward on Appeal of FCC's Pole Attachment Order

Utilities and Telecommunications Alert: Just the Fax... It Could Cost Your Company Millions

Utilities and Telecommunications Alert: 2.1 GHz Relocation -- The Second Wave is Here

Utilities and Telecommunications Alert: FCC Adopts Controversial Proposal to Regulate Internet Service Provider

Utilities and Telecommunications Alert: FERC Issues NOPR on Transmission Planning and Cost Allocation by Transmission Owning and Operating Public Utilities

Utilities and Telecommunications Alert: Is Your Company E-911 Compliant?

Utilities and Telecommunications Alert: Excavator Barred from Suing Utility for Negligence in Marking Underground Lines

Media Coverage:

Dan Clearfield comments on PUC oversight of competitive market in polar vortex cases (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

News:

Eckert Seamans welcomes Will C. Simmerson to Washington office and Litigation Division

Eckert Seamans welcomes Cody T. Murphey as an associate in the firm’s Richmond office and Litigation Division

Virginia Super Lawyers 2019 recognizes three attorneys from Eckert Seamans’ Richmond office

Eckert Seamans welcomes Ray Middleman to Pittsburgh office

Eckert Seamans welcomes former PUC director Karen O. Moury to Harrisburg office

Eckert Seamans welcomes leading FERC lawyer Richard Drom to Washington office

Eric Page joins Eckert Seamans in Richmond

Virginia Business recognizes David Clarke among 2011 Virginia Legal Elite