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Utilities Regulation and Governance

LeClairRyan's Utilities team is engaged in a substantial and nationally recognized practice in the electric, natural gas, and telecommunications industries, as well as related areas such as administrative law and cooperative associations. Our involvement in this area of the law encompasses regulatory, transactional, legislative, and corporate governance matters. We provide legal advice and representation to a broad cross-section of clients, including regulated and non-regulated public utilities, commercial businesses, industrial concerns, alternative energy companies, and communication services providers.

Our Utilities team has experience in handling a wide range of utilities matters, including the production, transmission, distribution, and purchase and sale of electricity and natural gas. We also are well-versed in all aspects of the increasingly competitive telecommunications markets. With our eclectic practice background, extensive experience, and a deep well of in-house resources, we are well-positioned to meet the business and legal needs of all types of entities engaged in activities related to the public utilities arena.

Our Utilities services include:

  • Public Utility Law
  • Regulatory Matters
  • Cooperative Associations

Public Utility Law

Our Utility team members who focus on the practice of public utility law have significant experience that spans all aspects of the electric, natural gas, and telecommunications industries. We serve as general and regulatory counsel to our clients, providing representation before state and federal regulatory bodies, and we have litigated numerous cases on our clients’ behalf. In all our engagements, we undertake the most rigorous, thorough, and proactive preparation possible, with the goal of achieving the most favorable outcome possible for our clients, whether in a trial venue or via settlement. We utilize a collaborative approach in our efforts, tapping our colleagues in other areas of LeClairRyan's practice to create customized teams for specific client engagements. By strategically allocating resources and promptly and shrewdly evaluating each case, we are able to creatively maximize value for our clients.

Among the public utility law matters our Utility team routinely handles for LeClairRyan clients are asset acquisitions, co-ownership, construction, contracts, corporate issues, development, distribution, environmental concerns, fuel supply agreements, interconnection agreements, and joint ventures. We also have experience and expertise dealing with land use issues, joint development, legislation, litigation, licensing and regulatory approval, operational issues, production, project finance, purchase and sale of public utilities, other types of purchases and sales, strategic alliances, taxes, and transmission.

We understand that even the most well-intentioned effort is not enough to achieve the level of client satisfaction we strive to deliver. Results are what matter, and that is the basis on which we ask to be judged. In all our endeavors on behalf of clients, we focus on the big picture to ensure that pragmatic solutions are put into play. We have learned through first-hand experience that expedient critical thinking can spell the difference between success and failure. We understand that time is a critical resource and must be managed daily. We evaluate all challenges quickly, and we move in a decisive yet considered way to take steps to develop creative solutions, expedite the process, and fully implement our clients’ strategies.

Energy

Our extensive experience in the energy industry allows us to offer our clients a keen understanding of their business objectives and strategic initiatives. We have represented our clients in many venues, including before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the utility regulatory commissions of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, and North Carolina. We also provide utility clients with governmental representation, and we have been particularly active in recent legislative initiatives to restructure the electric utility industry.

Natural Gas

Our work in the natural gas industry includes state regulatory representation, ratemaking, litigation, affiliate transactions, financing approval, and transfer act applications. We serve as Virginia state regulatory counsel to a local distribution company and have prior experience representing its competitive affiliates.

Telecommunications

Our Utility team attorneys have significant experience advising a wide array of clients on a broad spectrum of telecommunications matters. Our client roster in this practice area includes both facilities-based and reseller competitive local exchange carriers; long distance carriers; Internet service providers; shared tenant service providers; information access providers; and cellular telephone, cable television, radio common carrier, and pager companies.

Administrative Law

Our Utility team attorneys who focus on administrative law have a keen understanding of our clients' industries and businesses as well as strong working relationships with relevant regulatory agencies. Many of our attorneys on this team have worked in government as agency officials or counsel. We know the law intimately because we have played a role in shaping it. We understand the processes involved in getting laws changed, and we know the decision-makers, the statutory scheme, and the core issues behind those laws. With backgrounds and experience crafted inside the Capitol, we have an extensive knowledge of the personalities of Virginia’s elected officials and the practical workings of the legislative and regulatory processes.

Dealing with regulatory policy development, compliance, and litigation is a fact of life for many businesses. Our attorneys can help by assisting clients with regulatory representation that encompasses the adoption of rules and regulations, licensing issues, disciplinary actions, and government contracts. The representation our attorneys focusing on administrative law provide spans a wide range of matters, including health care, land use, environmental issues, energy, telecommunications, utilities, gas, cooperatives, water, architecture, alcoholic beverage regulation, workers’ and unemployment compensation, insurance, securities, and automotive manufacturer and dealership issues.

Our attorneys are widely recognized for their ability to structure and advocate practical solutions to complex legal challenges, which we do both within the context of state and federal government regulatory and administrative agencies and within the highly-charged political atmosphere of the Virginia General Assembly. We routinely appear before and work closely with regulatory agencies, boards, and commissions in the development and implementation of public policy. Among the bodies with which we regularly interact are the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Virginia State Corporation Commission, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, Board of Medicine, Air Pollution Control Board, and State Water Control Board.

Our attorneys' intimate familiarity with and comprehensive understanding of regulatory priorities empowers them to successfully craft proposals that avoid lengthy and costly disputes on compliance issues while at the same time maintaining positive working relationships with regulatory officials. Our proactive approach to the practice of administrative law strives to avoid the courtroom whenever possible; however, in cases where that has been unavoidable, we have successfully litigated cases in both the trial and appellate courts.

Many of our LeClairRyan attorneys in this practice area have been chosen by their peers for leadership positions on local and state bar committees concerned with administrative law, and a number have been named to Virginia Business magazine’s list of the top lawyers in Virginia.

Cooperative Associations

The unique organizational characteristics of cooperative associations call for very specific advocacy and advice, and our Utilities team provides just that. We have extensive experience representing cooperatives and other member-owned associations, with much of our expertise in this area honed over 20 years of representing a large electric cooperative. During the course of that engagement, we have functioned as the cooperative’s primary provider of legal services, handling regulatory, transactional, legislative, and corporate governance matters. The experience has provided us with invaluable perspective into the roles and interests inherent in this type of organizational structure, enabling us to broaden our work with this client base.

Our client roster in this area also includes utility and agricultural cooperatives, credit unions, and trade and hospital associations. We have represented Virginia's largest general agricultural cooperative, as well as specific types of producer cooperatives, including poultry farmers and fruit growers. We also have provided advisory services to member-owned hospital associations.

In many cases, a cooperative's customers and owners have the same roles and interests in common. That being the case, our attorneys on our Corporate and Regulatory teams have found that their wide-ranging experience and insight into the relative interests of participants in multi-constituent relationships—i.e., business owners and customers, boards of directors and shareholders, organizers and represented parties—hold the key to successful representation of cooperatives.

Cooperatives often have special tax needs related to particular exemptions and restrictions at both the state and federal level. In some cases, a particular transaction may be entirely driven by tax considerations. Tax consequences can also be an important consideration in financial matters. Our Finance team and Tax team members have specific experience counseling and representing cooperative associations, and they work in close collaboration with our Utilities team in this area. We consistently provide our cooperative association clients with timely attention and customized solutions to meet their legal needs. We work to maximize our value to clients by providing them with multi-dimensional strategic teams that utilize colleagues from LeClairRyan's other practice area teams as needed to develop practical solutions to all their concerns.

Contact

  • 202.659.6731