Often times, when talking to people, after my elevator speech, a puzzled look comes over their face. The next words out of their mouth are all too familiar. “What is a utility lawyer?” When I first started working on utility issues, I didn’t have a great answer. Often it was ” Well? I help clients with utility issues.”
Nowadays, my answer is “I am a answer finder and teacher”. I help my clients, both customers and utilities with issues affecting them, whether the issue involves electricity, gas, water and wastewater, communications services, or renewables.
- Determination of utility rates
- Litigation of service disputes, antitrust issues and appeals of agency decisions
- Transactions (including debt and stock offerings, sales of utility property, utility service agreements, acquisitions and divestitures, etc.)
- Proceedings for certification of new utilities and expansion of existing certificates
- Power plant and transmission line siting
- Electric and telecommunications restructuring/deregulation issues
- Legislative drafting and rulemaking
We also assist clients in complying with the statutes and regulations applicable to public service corporations. Much of our “compliance” work for utility clients involves identification and resolution of problem areas before they rise to the level of complaint proceedings or adversarial hearings.
In addition to educating and representing our clients, Hernandez Law Firm, focuses on the property rights of clients in regards to utility issues in Missouri. Generally speaking, utility projects will not require that ownership of an entire property be taken. Instead, utility companies only seek to obtain an easement, which gives them permanent permission to use part of the land for their intended project. Though an easement seems less drastic than a taking of the full property, utility takings cause specific challenges for landowners including reducing the property value or decreasing the productivity of the land. Easements can also last forever, thereby affecting every subsequent owner of the property. For this reason, landowners should always ensure the receive adequate compensation for an easement as part of a utility taking.
Standing up to large utility companies can further be very intimidating for landowners, and owners may feel pressured to accept the first offer they receive for compensation for the land. In the large majority of case, however, this first offer is insultingly low and does not nearly reflect all of the losses that a property owner will incur as a result of the utility taking. Landowners should realize that they have specific rights in these cases and do not have to accept the first offer presented. Instead, they may partake in mediation or other negotiations to obtain the amount they truly deserve.
On the utility side of the practice, we have helped Independent Power Producers (IPP’s), service and utility equipment providers and other non-public utilities in administrative and rule-making proceedings before the Missouri Public Service Commission, the circuit courts of Missouri and the appellate courts, relating to utility proceedings including:
- Transfers of control
- Customer service and other complaint proceedings
- Mergers and acquisitions
- Antitrust and compliance
- Market entry
- Inter-carrier relations
- Legislative affairs, policy issues and disputes
- Regulatory compliance and investigations
- Eminent domain issues
- Contracts and agreements
Our assistance continues through discovery, settlement negotiations, mediation and where settlement cannot be achieved, litigation. We also provide advice and assistance in a variety of other proceedings, including utility applications, investigations and complaint cases. We have the experience to not only investigate the case, but to litigate the case when necessary.
In the future, we will go into the various specific areas in utility law. In the meantime, contact us will any questions regarding utility issues, business issues or questions. Our number is 573-349-8200 or email us at email@example.com.