Energy Law

ENVRES 226 & Law 2503 | Fall 2018

Modern energy systems aim to deliver a supply of reliable, low-cost, and clean energy; in turn, they require massive capital investments in infrastructure projects, some of which have the features of a natural monopoly and therefore require ongoing economic regulation. The U.S. energy system today is subject to a complex regime of state and federal laws. We will examine the historical role of state-level electric utility regulation, tracing its evolution into the various forms of regulated and deregulated energy markets now in use in the U.S. electricity and natural gas sectors. Contemporary energy law increasingly involves a delicate federalist balance where state and federal regulators share overlapping authority in contested policy areas that are subject to major technological and economic change, as changes in the supply and costs of renewable and fossil energy resources alike transform the U.S. energy sector. Finally, we will interrogate the contested ideals of regulation and competition, which private, non-profit, and governmental stakeholders all deploy in legal and political fora to advance private gain and public goods—most recently in a series of transformative proposals to use federal emergency powers to provide financial bailouts to legacy fossil and nuclear power plants. Students who complete the class will gain a historical understanding of how economic regulation of the energy sector has evolved since the early 20th century, a durable conceptual framework for understanding modern energy law and policy debates, and a practical understanding of energy law designed for future practitioners.