Energy Law & Utility Regulation
Energy and utility law is one of our largest practice areas. As a firm, we believe that diversifying our state’s and our nation’s sources of energy – and, in particular, increasing our reliance on renewable resources, energy efficiency, and demand response efforts – is critical to future economic prosperity, quality of life, and environmental protection. We also believe that our fundamental need for energy need not come at the expense of our natural resources, environment, and public health.
The core of our energy and utility practice involves the representation of individuals, ratepayers, non-profits, and environmental organizations in a wide range of proceedings before the Michigan Public Service Commission. Our attorneys are involved in, and have extensive knowledge and experience regarding, a wide range of Commission cases – these include general electric rate cases, fuel and power supply cases, renewable energy and energy efficiency cases, accounting and financial proceedings, and special cases involving utilities’ requests to construct large new electric generating facilities.
Our firm represents developers and other parties in contract, business, zoning, and regulatory matters concerning renewable energy generating facilities and related infrastructure. We also help landowners review and negotiate oil and natural gas leases, and easements for energy projects, that are fair, reasonable, and protective of property.
In addition, we represent local and tribal governments in all manner of energy issues, from the zoning and regulatory aspects of energy generating facilities and associated infrastructure to the regulation of air pollution, fly ash, sour gas wells, and low-level radioactive waste. We have also represented and provided counsel to municipal utilities.
Our energy and utility practice is closely connected to our long history of helping individuals, local governments, community groups, and non-profits protect and preserve the natural environment. As such, we have frequently litigated cases at the intersection of energy, environmental, local government, tribal and Indian, land use, and public health law.
- On behalf of the Michigan Environmental Council and other environmental organizations, our firm’s ratepayer advocacy at the Michigan Public Service Commission has contributed to significant reductions in renewable energy costs for customers of the state’s two largest public utilities – even as those utilities have rapidly expanded their reliance on renewable energy in compliance with Michigan’s renewable portfolio standard.
- Also at the Public Service Commission, our firm’s advocacy was instrumental in securing the 2011 announcement by the Consumers Energy Company that it would suspend operations at its seven smallest, most expensive, and dirtiest coal-fired power plants.
- We recently advised an out-of-state utility considering the purchase of generating assets in Michigan about the Michigan energy market.
- We helped a small-scale renewable energy developer negotiate engineering, procurement, and construction contracts with Michigan Indian Tribes.
- We represented a township in litigation over natural gas wells containing hazardous concentrations of hydrogen sulfide (i.e., “sour gas”), and helped develop an ordinance to regulate the transport and processing of sour gas through a residential community.
- We helped a former utility rate analyst win a regulatory complaint case against a major electric service provider. The analyst ultimately obtained a favorable settlement in a whistleblower lawsuit against the utility.
- We recently assisted a local township board with drafting and implementation of renewable energy zoning ordinance amendments.
- We advised local zoning officials concerning lawsuit between two landowners over wind turbines.
- We obtained a significant settlement for small business owners whose health was negatively impacted by a chemical vapor release from a utility’s natural gas facility.
- We have advised and represented various clients in power line and utility easement disputes, including condemnation proceedings.
"The attorneys at OBH have provided consistent, reliable and solid advice and services that I've counted on to advance clean energy policies that will benefit Michigan residents for decades to come."
Deputy Director for Policy
Natural Resources Defense Council