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What is Energy Law?

Updated on October 7, 2015
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Legal Specialisations

There are many different types of legal specialisations relating to all aspects of business and personal life. Many legal specialisations are interrelated and having knowledge of one aspect of the law can be useful when practising another. In recent years energy law has come to the fore as an important specialisation mainly as a result of how the energy industry has expanded in the past decade. So what is energy law? What does it cover and what issues do energy lawyers deal with?

What is Energy Law?

Energy law, rather unsurprisingly, covers energy and its regulations. ‘Energy’ as an umbrella term covers areas like oil, gas, nuclear power or renewable resources and energy law deals with any issue, policy, regulation or problem relating to these areas. In previous decades energy law was much more concerned with the gas and oil industries as these were our main sources of energy and power. As time has rolled on, however, different types of energy have become more prevalent. A great deal of energy law is now concerned with renewable alternative fuel and energy resources such as wind, solar or tidal.

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Energy v. Environment

Though energy law can relate to renewable resources, and by extension the environment, it should not be confused with environmental law. Where energy law deals with the transactions, dealings, and legal matters associated with the energy industry, environmental law is more concerned with protecting the planet. Environmental law regulates how we interact with the planet and implements measures that will help to reduce our impact. Energy law, on the other hand, is much more concerned with how the energy industry works. It can be very useful, however for a lawyer specialising in energy to also have a working knowledge of environmental law.

What Do Energy Lawyers Do?

So, what kind of thing would an energy law firm or a lawyer specialising in energy law deal with on a daily basis? The main focus of an energy company is the production and sale of energy resources, therefore an energy lawyer will often deal with the contractual side of this – i.e. making sure that the production, sale and distribution of the resources is legally correct. An energy company is a business like any other and will need a lawyer who has both the contractual and business knowledge necessary but also has expertise in the energy arena.

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Litigation & Regulation

An energy lawyer may also be required to provide legal aid in the case of a dispute or lawsuit. Oil companies, for example, can face legal action related to an oil spill that has caused environmental damage. Nuclear power stations could be sued in the event of a problem with the reactor that causes damage. Producing energy comes with a number of safety issues that companies need to make sure they are addressing. An energy law firm can help ensure that a company is following strict regulations put down by the government and is ‘up to code’.

Finance & Development

Other areas that an energy lawyer may deal with can include handling the financial and developmental aspects of a new project. The energy industry is heavily regulated and any new project will need to follow any applicable laws. For newer forms of energy a lawyer may be involved helping companies to raise capital for discovery and development. An energy lawyer may also be involved in legislative actions for new energy resources, making sure there are fewer barriers for companies wanting to advance and distribute the resources.

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The Energy Industry

Overall it is an energy lawyer’s job to make sure that their client is following regulations or is not being victimised through others’ misuse of the law. They also do not just have to work for big energy companies, some lawyers represent environmental groups or individual consumers. There are a wide range of areas that an energy lawyer can help with, they can deal with competition law, price fixing disputes or mergers and acquisitions. As the energy industry continues to develop and change, the role of an energy lawyer is likely to do the same. Energy is a big part of our society and is likely to become even more crucial in years to come. You can find out more about energy law in practice from a law firm that specialises in energy and natural resources law.

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