The landscape of the energy industry in the Pacific Northwest is rapidly changing. Customers are increasingly demanding a power supply that is cleaner, cheaper, more reliable, and more flexible. Fortunately, developing technologies are providing opportunities for innovative means of generation, distribution, and storage. At the same time, government regulations are evolving to adapt to these new technologies and shift public policy, creating both challenges and opportunities for owners and developers. Our energy clients are on the leading edge of this evolving business, and Cable Huston provides the legal support and advice necessary for our clients to innovate and compete in this modern environment. Our energy and utility team has decades of experience navigating the complexities of the energy industry in the Pacific Northwest and, as such, is well-positioned to help clients address all manner of issues, ranging from the day-to-day operation of a utility to the financing, development, and interconnection of new generation facilities.
Representation of Consumer-Owned Utilities
For over 25 years, the cornerstone of Cable Huston’s energy and utility practice has been the representation of consumer-owned utilities across the Pacific Northwest. We have had the privilege of providing legal advice, either directly or through industry trade organizations, to virtually every such utility in the region. A significant part of our representation of consumer-owned utilities focuses on meeting growing customer demand for renewable energy. This involves regularly advising our utility clients on matters such as retail rates and service policies, service territory issues, wholesale power supply agreements, including with the Bonneville Power Administration, interconnection and transmission agreements, and rates and charges. While the retail loads of many electric utilities in the region have remained stagnant, we have helped consumer-owned utility clients create and implement new retail policies and contracts to actually grow their retail loads—in some cases by hundreds of MWs.
Advocacy Before State Public Utility Commissions
Cable Huston attorneys frequently advocate on behalf of clients before the Oregon Public Utility Commission and the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission. This work includes representing large industrial and commercial customers in rate cases and other regulatory proceedings. As regulated utilities expand, consolidate, or implement new programs and seek to increase rates, our attorneys ensure that industrial and commercial energy customers receive just and reasonable rates for the power they use. We also represent numerous renewable power developers with respect to the ongoing state implementation of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA). Independent power producers often face difficulties when attempting to navigate PURPA and sell power to regulated utilities. Our deep knowledge of this complex federal law and Oregon’s implementing rules have allowed us to help developers succeed here in the Northwest. Finally, we also represent various Electric Service Suppliers (ESS) in connection with their regulatory compliance obligations under Oregon’s Direct Access law. Cable Huston attorneys also have successfully resolved utility service territory disputes and other types of contested cases before state regulators.
Financing, Development, and Sale of Energy Generation Facilities
We represent both investors and developers with the financing, construction, and sale of existing and future energy generation and storage projects. Cable Huston has helped clients develop numerous different types of energy generating facilities, including natural gas generation plants, hydroelectric facilities, wind farms, solar facilities, landfill gas facilities, methane capture facilities, and geothermal plants. We have also represented clients in connection with the successful sale of projects once built and operating. Currently, we are working with clients on developing the next generation of power production technologies such as hydroelectric pumped storage, commercial battery storage, and wind-solar hybrid facilities. Our clients in this space include consumer-owned utilities, independent power producers, municipalities, irrigation districts, non-profit associations, and financial institutions.
Utility Infrastructure Siting and Permitting
Cable Huston is also skilled in developing other utility assets and infrastructure needed to keep the lights on. One of the largest impediments to integrating new resources into the Northwest’s generation mix is the lack of necessary transmission facilities in the region. The need and demand for these facilities is growing, and Cable Huston is adept at guiding clients through the complicated siting, permitting, and development process. These projects can implicate multiple areas of law, as development may require obtaining multipart financing, local and state-level land use approvals, easements either through negotiation or condemnation, and long-term contract arrangements. We have represented numerous clients with respect to the construction of not only their own substations, transmission lines, and related transmission facilities but also network upgrades on third-party systems.
Wholesale Power, Interconnection, and Transmission Agreements
A large part of our practice at Cable Huston is representing clients in connection with both industry-standard and custom wholesale power purchase, interconnection, and transmission agreements. We have assisted numerous clients with negotiating and confirming transactions using the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) and Western Systems Power Pool (WSPP) master agreements. We also have experience closing transactions under the International Swap Dealers Association (ISDA) form of standard agreement. As part of this work, we have specifically advised clients on the collateral and financial security requirements associated with such transactions. We have helped both utilities and developers navigate the interconnection process for generation projects. We are well-versed in the use of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) pro forma Small Generator Interconnection Agreement (SGIA) and Large Generator Interconnection Agreement (LGIA). We have also assisted clients in the negotiation of transmission service agreements under various open access transmission tariffs. We have a working knowledge of FERC’s pro forma Open Access Transmission Tariff (OATT) as well as the non-jurisdictional OATT developed by the Bonneville Power Administration. We have also worked with our transmission owning utility clients to develop interconnection and transmission policies, OATTs, and service agreements.
In addition to our diverse energy practice, Cable Huston attorneys also represent utility clients with telecommunications issues. Cable Huston serves as general counsel for a non-profit telecommunications utility providing a full suite of retail telecommunications products. We have also advised numerous utility pole owners concerning pole attachment and joint use agreements. We have helped negotiate telecommunications franchise agreements for municipalities, and Cable Huston is currently advising clients in their implementation of the Federal Communications Commission’s guidance on small-cell wireless facilities.
Cable Huston’s Energy and Utility practice group is supported by our litigation and environmental and natural resources attorneys. Working with the Litigation group, we have successfully handled numerous arbitrations, civil lawsuits, and judicial appeals arising out of technical energy disputes. Similarly, our experienced environmental attorneys provide valuable assistance for compliance with federal air and water quality standards, as well as state-level regulations, particularly regarding energy facility siting.