What is Energy Law?
The government only recently began to develop energy policies and to regulate industries like oil, gas, nuclear power, and alternative energy. The first policies came out of the Great Depression and World War II when the importance of energy, and the fact that it was not unlimited, became more obvious.
It wasn’t until 1977 that the federal government created the Department of Energy and consolidated many existing energy regulations. The energy crisis of the 1970s spurred this move to maintain competitive markets to provide citizens with affordable sources of energy.
The first federal energy law, the Federal Power Act, passed in 1920 and has since been amended several times. Lawmakers passed the act to help coordinate hydroelectric power projects. Many other federal energy laws now regulate all aspects of the industry, including public utilities, leasing and permits, nuclear energy, natural gas, oil, and alternative power sources. States also have laws to regulate energy.
What Do Oil, Gas, and Energy Lawyers Do?
Oil, gas, and energy lawyers specialize in all areas of the law relating to energy production, use, distribution, and sale. Their expertise extends from energy sources to natural resources, commerce, land use and zoning, environmental, maritime, and international law.
These lawyers mostly work with corporate clients, although they may sometimes represent individuals. They work in firms specializing in energy or in-house as part of the legal team of a company. Some of the many things they do for clients include:
- Negotiate oil and gas contracts
- Access mineral and natural resources rights
- Negotiate and process real estate transactions
- Ensuring environmental laws are followed during energy development and extraction
- Resolving disputes between energy companies and landowners
- Representing property owners approached by energy companies for extraction of their resources
Who Needs an Oil, Gas, and Energy Lawyer?
Most energy lawyers work with energy companies on major projects, but in some cases, an individual or a property owner may need someone with energy law expertise. For instance, a lawyer can provide advice and represent you if an energy company wants to harvest energy from your property or lease it to access oil or gas.
An energy lawyer may also help property owners in disputes with power companies. Disputes may arise over how they access the property and deliver utilities.
Lawyers specializing in oil, gas, and energy mostly work with clients in states that have these natural resources and where they make up a big part of the economy. This includes Alaska, North Dakota, Wyoming, Texas, Oklahoma, New York, and Pennsylvania.
How Can an Oil, Gas, and Energy Lawyer Help Me?
The most common reason an individual or landowner reaches out to an energy lawyer is that a company wants to extract energy from their property. If you find yourself in this situation, a lawyer with expertise in energy law can help you in several ways:
- Provide advice about whether or not to allow the access
- Determine your rights and if you have ownership over the natural resource
- Negotiate a good deal for accessing your property and the energy source
- Help you stop a company from extracting energy on your property
- Ensure any harvesting of energy on your property follows the law
- Manage environmental issues arising from energy on your property
In addition to federal laws, many states have regulations that apply in these situations. An oil, gas, and energy lawyer in your state understands all the laws that affect your decisions and your property.
How to Find an Oil, Gas, and Energy Lawyer
It can be difficult to find an energy lawyer or firm that handles smaller cases or represents individual property owners. Many work with companies on a large scale or are part of in-house legal teams. This doesn’t mean you can’t find an attorney to represent your interests. Try getting referrals from:
- The Energy Bar Association
- Your state’s bar association
- Environmental and natural resources law firms
- Anyone you know who has had legal issues involving energy and natural resource extraction on their property
The right lawyer to help you will have experience with clients in similar situations. Ask questions before you hire a firm or attorney. Good lawyers will be happy to share their experience and even client referrals. Avoid anyone who is elusive about their past cases or is difficult to communicate with about your questions and needs.
An oil, gas, and energy lawyer is not the professional many people need, but when you do, you’ll be glad to have an expert on your side. Energy companies have legal departments fighting for their best interests, not yours. You need a dedicated lawyer to advocate for you against these big companies.