Utility Law

What Are Utilities Laws?

Utilities Laws are defined as essential commodities or services, such as water, electricity, transportation, or communication provided to the public by private business organizations. These organizations are regulated by local, state and federal governments.

Electrical Power

The generation, transmission, and distribution of electric power are heavily regulated. At the federal level, the transmission of electric power between utilities is governed by the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA). Congress gave the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) jurisdiction over energy transmission. PURPA requires that independent power producers (IPPs) be allowed to interconnect with the distribution and transmission grids of major electric utilities. In addition, PURPA protects IPPs from paying burdensome rates for purchasing backup power from major utilities, and sets the rate at which the utilities can purchase power from IPPs at the major utilities' "avoided cost" of producing the power.

The principal regulation of the generation, distribution, and transmission of electric power happens at the state level through various state public utility commissions. Because the production of electric energy is connected with a public interest, states have a vested interest in supervising it and working to assure that electricity will be produced in a safe, efficient, and expedient manner. Electric utility companies must make available electricity at applicable lawful rates, and must file rate schedules with the public service commissions. Sometimes these rates are challenged, and administrative hearings are held to allow the utilities to petition for rate increases. Rates that would allow considerably more than a fair return may be struck down as unjustly high.

Electricity, particularly at high voltages or high currents, is a hazardous commodity. Faulty wiring, power lines that are close to trees and buildings, insufficient warning signs and fences around transformer stations, and over buried electrical cables can subject an individual to electric shock or electrocution. Because of the ultra-dangerous nature of providing electric power, states have many statutes and regulations in place to protect the public from these and other hazards.

For more information about Utilities Law, visit the resources below. Additionally, if you need legal assistance pertaining to these matters, please visit our Law Firms page to find information about attorneys in your area who specialize in this area of law.

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Utilities Law - US

  • National Consumer Law Center - Energy and Utility

    NCLC has a solid history of protecting and representing the interests of low-income consumers in the area of utility services. For over 30 years NCLC has used its legal and policy expertise to create and advocate for energy and utility policies that promote affordable prices and the efficient use of natural resources.

  • Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)

    The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) works to strengthen the United States' energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality in public-private partnerships. It supports this goal through: * Enhancing energy efficiency and productivity; * Bringing clean, reliable and affordable energy technologies to the marketplace; and * Making a difference in the everyday lives of Americans by enhancing their energy choices and their quality of life.

  • Public Utilities - Definition

    A public utility is a business that furnishes an everyday necessity to the public at large. Public utilities provide water, electricity, natural gas, telephone service, and other essentials. Utilities may be publicly or privately owned, but most are operated as private businesses.

  • Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA)

    The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT 2005) Subtitle E contains three sections (secs. 1251, 1252, and 1254) that add additional “States-must-consider” standards to the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA).

  • US Department of Energy - Power Utilities

    In the power industry, energy efficiency involves getting the most usable energy out of the fuels that supply the power plants. At its best, energy efficiency in the power industry can lead to postponing—or altogether avoiding—the construction of new power plants.

Public Utilities and Services Commission by State

Organizations Related to Utilities Law

  • National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC)

    NARUC is an association representing the State public service commissioners who regulate essential utility services, such as electricity, gas, telecommunications, water, and transportation, throughout the country. As regulators, our members are charged with protecting the public and ensuring that rates charged by regulated utilities are fair, just, and reasonable.

  • Public Utility Law Project (PULP)

    Frequent loss of utility service by many low income households and rising energy prices prompted the Schenectady Community Action Program and the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York to form a joint project in the late 1970's called the Public Utility Law Project (PULP). The project was successful, and eventually PULP of New York, Inc. was incorporated in 1981 as an independent not for profit organization

  • The Utility Connection

    The Utility Connection provides links to 4,032 electric, gas, water and wastewater utilities, utility associations, organizations, news, magazines, utility financial resources, and related state & federal regulatory and information sites.

Publications Related to Utilities Law

  • Avista Utilities - Blog

    We've been here for a long time—more than a century, in fact. A lot of our families live here, too. They, and you, expect Avista to be a responsible corporate citizen, paying attention to the issues our customers and employees care about most. And so we do.

  • Institute of Public Utilities - Publications

    The Institute of Public Utilities supports informed, effective, and efficient regulation of the infrastructure-intensive network industries providing essential utility services – electricity, natural gas, water, and telecommunications. We fulfill our mission by providing to the regulatory policy community integrative and interdisciplinary educational programs and applied research on the institutions, theory, and practice of modern economic regulation.

Articles on HG.org Related to Utilities Law

  • In the Wake of Harvey Federal Money to Pay for Water Projects in Texas
    The National Hurricane Center has concluded that Hurricane Harvey, which flooded the Texas Gulf Coast last August, was the worst rain storm ever to have occurred, shattering records and causing between $100 billion and $200 billion in damages.
  • Which is Safer: Tap or Bottled Water?
    Each year, millions of Americans consume billions of gallons of water. The boom in the bottled water industry was fueled, in part, by beliefs that bottled water was cleaner and more heavily regulated than tap water. But then a backlash by others in the media showed that much bottle water was simply tap water in a bottle. So, is one form of water more heavily regulated and safer than the other?
  • Recent Bankruptcy Court Decision May Illuminate Whether Electricity Will Be Considered a Good
    I give the experimentalist’s answer to the very fundamental but very familiar query: “What is electricity?” His answer is naďve, but simple and definite. He admits at once that as to the ultimate nature of electricity he knows nothing. –Robert Millikan, American Nobel Laureate in Physics
  • The Effect on Natural Resources and Oil Drilling in California From The Lifting of the Ban on Offshore Drilling
    This article examines what will be the effect of the lifting of the ban on offshore drilling in California and shows why the “Drill Now” movement is not likely to produce a single extra barrel of oil from new offshore drilling platforms off the coast of California.
  • All Business and Industry Law Articles

    Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Business and Industry including: agency and distributorship, agency law, business and industry, business formation, business law, commercial law, contracts, corporate governance, corporate law, e-commerce, food and beverages law, franchising, industrial and manufacturing, joint ventures, legal economics, marketing law, mergers and acquisitions, offshore services, privatization law, retail, shareholders rights and utilities.

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