Energy law is an area of the law that focuses on the use, regulation and taxation of renewable and non-renewable energy sources such as oil, natural gas, nuclear power, solar energy and wind energy. Energy laws are designed to accomplish everything from sustaining competitive energy markets to resolving energy ownership and distribution issues. The practice of energy law is constantly evolving as new energy sources are identified and become subject to regulation. The energy field is complex and requires extensive regulation, so those who practice this legal specialty can benefit from a background in science and engineering as well as additional legal expertise in business law, environmental law and international law.
The energy industry is subject to a variety of scientific, economic and environmental regulatory issues. Energy law encompasses rules and regulations relating to public utilities, the purchase and sale of energy and land rights, energy deregulation, consumer energy rates, taxation, ownership rights, licensing rights and contractual obligations. The practice of energy law is focused on assistance with energy development as well as litigation involving energy rights and responsibilities. Some energy attorneys also provide lobbying services, using their knowledge to help strengthen or change the policies that regulate the energy industry.
Attorneys who specialize in this branch of law are responsible for handling a variety of legal claims involving economic issues, taxation issues, intellectual property issues, policy issues and compliance issues. Energy attorneys represent everyone from consumers to inventors, environmental groups and large utility companies. Legal actions that come up in energy law typically involve claims relating to mergers and acquisitions, price-fixing, oil spills, patent infringement, land rights, environmental damage, contractual disputes and antitrust violations.
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The focus of energy law historically has been on the regulation of non-renewable energy sources such as natural gas and nuclear power; however, the field has had to evolve over time to keep up with advances in technology. New sources of renewable energy have been identified that are cleaner and more environmentally friendly than non-renewable sources, and also more sustainable for future energy needs. As a result, laws governing the various aspects of the energy industry are constantly evolving to regulate the latest energy sources emerging in the global marketplace.
Energy law continues to change and evolve every day. With the demand for energy continuing unabated worldwide, energy law in the future will be shaped by everything from international relations to global economics, environmental discoveries and sustainability questions. Energy attorneys and others in the industry will likely continue to encounter legal issues involving compliance, safety, taxation and environmental regulation.