In Focus: Energy

Over the last few years, perhaps no other topic in Pennsylvania has captured the spirit of entrepreneurship or the attention of government more than the expansion of the energy industry. By and large, Marcellus Shale has held the lion’s share of headlines, but whether we are talking about natural gas, oil, coal or renewable energy, it is clear Pennsylvania is positioned to be at the forefront of fueling the future of our nation.

That kind of potential has made our state a business, legislative and regulatory focal point. Over the summer, Governor Corbett’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission released a detailed report with 96 recommendations on the direction of this emerging industry. In addition, there have been significant structural changes at the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) and a renewed focus by both the PUC and the state legislature on further developing the competitive markets for electric consumers. Concern regarding aging infrastructure, environmental issues and the opportunities of renewable energy are also part of the broad spectrum of state government-focused issues that are having a ripple effect throughout the commonwealth.

This special edition of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney’s Legislative Report takes a look at these issues by talking with some of the state’s key state government officials. We hope it offers some additional perspective regarding the direction and opportunities energy industries and issues present to our friends and clients.

Now more than ever, the complex needs of energy-related industries require good governmental relationships, experienced legal services and knowledgeable regulatory advice. Buchanan’s integrated energy team of more than 80 attorneys and professionals represents leading companies in the areas of corporate finance, land services, land use, mineral title, environmental, regulatory, tax, litigation, labor and employment, intellectual property, real estate and government relations. We understand the unique legal, regulatory and operational issues facing the players in this market and we provide timely proactive counsel on developments and current trends so that our clients can focus on achieving their business objectives.

A listing of our professionals and attorneys, along with their areas of expertise, can be found here. Don’t hesitate to call us. On behalf of the entire Buchanan team, we look forward to assisting you in achieving the best possible result for your interest and business.

Tom Paese
Shareholder and Chair
State Government Relations

Sean Moran
Shareholder and Co-Chair
Energy Section


Buchanan Energy Practice Expands with Southpointe Office

To accommodate the continued growth of its energy practice, Buchanan recently opened an office in the Southpointe neighborhood of Canonsburg, Pennsylvania to support practice areas which include oil and gas (Marcellus Shale), coal, renewable energy and environmental sectors. The office space will be used by lawyers and government relations professionals who are spending an increased amount of time with clients in Canonsburg.

"Leasing office space where many of our clients are centrally located will help us better serve our clients," stated Coal Practice Group Leader Matt Burger.


A Conversation with Patrick Henderson, Energy Executive for Governor Tom Corbett

From affordable energy to Marcellus Shale, Governor Tom Corbett’s Energy Executive Patrick Henderson is at the center of the daily conversation on Pennsylvania’s hottest energy issues. Halfway through the governor's first year and just after the release of the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commisson's Report, the Legislative Update had the chance to talk to Henderson about his role in energy policy and the direction Pennsylvania is taking…


A Busy First Six Months for PUC Chairman

Last February, Governor Tom Corbett appointed Robert F. Powelson of Chester County to serve as chairman of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC). His title may have changed, but Powelson is no stranger to issues of competitive markets, ratepayer concerns, infrastructure, and renewable energy. He has served as a PUC commissioner since June 2008.

During his first six months as chairman, Powelson has overseen the final planning and implementation of a reorganization of the PUC, played an active role on the governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, and launched an investigation into the status of Pennsylvania’s electricity market. In addition, the chairman is seeking solutions to address the state’s aging natural gas pipeline infrastructure and ways to realistically unite the federal push to incorporate renewable energy with Pennsylvania’s more traditional energy-producing industries.


The Chairs

Most energy-related legislation moves through the House and Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committees. Meet Senators and Representatives who chair the committees at the epicenter of the commonwealth’s energy-related debates and legislation.


PUC Changes Organizational Structure

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has adopted revisions to its organizational structure and named two veteran PUC employees to top positions.

At its August 11, 2011 meeting the commission voted 5-0 to implement the changes, following an internal review of the commission’s operations. The review was conducted to determine how to best employ the enhanced operational flexibility given to the commission by the General Assembly's enactment of Act 129 of 2008. The Act changed the structure of the commission, eliminating the statutory requirement that the commission maintain certain bureaus.


PUC Appoints 2 Top Directors

As a result of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission’s (PUC) restructuring, the commission named Johnnie Simms as the director for the Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement (BI&E). BI&E will serve as the prosecutory bureau for purposes of representing the public interest in ratemaking and service matters before the Office of Administrative Law Judge, and enforcing compliance with the state and federal motor carrier safety and gas safety laws and regulations. The bureau will also handle rail safety enforcement proceedings that are referred by the Bureau of Technical Utility Services. Simms moves into this new position following 29 years of employment at the PUC. He most recently served as the director and chief prosecutor of the commission’s Office of Trial Staff.


Marcellus Shale Report Supports Impact Fee and Pooling

The final report of the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission unanimously adopted 96 policy recommendations that include tougher regulations for drilling, doubling fines for violations, creating jobs in related industries and promoting the use of natural gas vehicles.

The commission also voted to include the adoption of a local impact fee on drillers and support for pooling, which allows for the extraction of oil or gas from underneath a property from a well in an adjacent property.


Consumer Participation and Default Service Focus of Electric Competition Hearing

The House Consumer Affairs Committee held a hearing in early August on the status of electric utility competition in Pennsylvania. Testimony from government officials, industry representatives and consumer representatives agreed that retail competition has not yet reached its full potential and the transition to competition has been generally positive.


Committee Hears Testimony on Natural Gas Competition

In 1999 the Natural Gas Choice and Competition Act moved the state’s natural gas industry toward competitive markets. In August, the House Consumer Affairs Committee heard testimony from government officials, industry representatives and consumer groups regarding the state of natural gas competitive markets in Pennsylvania.


Third PUC Rulemaking on Natural Gas Competition Expected Soon

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) is expected to complete a third rulemaking that would establish a common set of business practices for local natural gas distribution companies.


U.S. Army Ready to Spur Massive Investments in Renewable Energy

For years, the Department of Defense and all branches of the military have been strategically incorporating renewable energy into their operations and are further building the profile of renewables as a tool in our national security strategy.


Committee Meeting Calendar

Editor’s Note: For the most up-to-date listing of the standing committee meeting schedule, please contact Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney’s State Government Relations Center at (717) 237-4800 or log on to www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/session.cfm.

Tuesday, September 13

House Finance Committee
10:00 a.m., Holiday Inn, 210 Ludlow Street, Warren

The committee will hold an informational meeting on the Marcellus Shale industry.

Joint Legislative Conservation Committee
10:00 a.m., Room G-50, Irvis Office Building

The committee will hold a public hearing on mandatory trash collection.

Senate Banking and Insurance Committee
1:00 p.m., University of Pittsburgh, William Pitt Union, Lower Lounge, 4200 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh

The committee will hold a public hearing to accept testimony regarding the ongoing contractual dispute between Highmark and UPMC and Highmark's proposed acquisition of West Penn Allegheny Hospital.

House Democratic Policy Committee
2:00 p.m., Penn State Fayette-The Eberly Campus, The Community Center's
Magerko Auditorium, One University Drive, Uniontown

The committee will hold a public hearing on state budget cuts.