Practice Areas

Public Utilities and Regulation (Energy and Water)

Christian & Barton attorneys have specialized in legal issues involving public utilities and other regulated industries for over 30 years, including matters involving providers of electricity, natural gas and water.  Expertise related to these regulated industries includes lobbying; drafting and interpretation of statutes for regulation and deregulation of such industries; representation of clients in hearings before public service commissions and other state and federal governmental regulatory bodies; representation of clients in appeals of regulatory orders; drafting, negotiation, and interpretation of contracts and tariffs; and analysis of issues related to rates, rules, cost of service, accounting, and rate of return.

Christian & Barton is widely recognized for its expertise in this field.  Our attorneys routinely make energy and administrative law presentations to client groups, industry trade associations, and bar associations.  By actively participating in the development of statutes and regulatory policies governing energy industries now and in the future, we expect to play an important role in helping our clients remain competitive in the global marketplace.

Energy and Water Users - Industrial, Commercial and Governmental
For more than 30 years, Christian & Barton has been a leader in representing industrial, commercial, and governmental users of electric, natural gas, and water utility services in proceedings before public service commissions and other state and federal regulatory agencies, and in direct negotiation with utilities and other suppliers.  Our lawyers regularly appear in administrative proceedings before the Virginia State Corporation Commission, the Delaware Public Service Commission, the Maryland Public Service Commission, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and other regulatory bodies, both in generic proceedings and in individual rate cases and other regulatory cases involving specific utilities.

Our firm serves as counsel for coalitions of industrial and commercial customers of electricity, natural gas, and water utilities.  We have represented two of the most long-standing coalitions of industrial users at the state level; the Virginia Committee for Fair Utility Rates and the Old Dominion Committee for Fair Utility Rates. We have represented the Committees for more than 30 years. Christian & Barton has worked closely since their inception with other coalitions that include the Virginia Industrial Gas Users, the Maryland Energy Users Group, and the Delaware Energy Users Group. These coalitions are composed of more than 40 large companies with operations in the Mid-Atlantic region.  We represent these coalitions and individual clients in rate and other cases involving electric, natural gas, and water utilities.  Our overriding objective is to achieve reliable service at the lowest rates possible for our clients and enhance their competitive positions.  Our firm has helped shape the dramatic changes in the statutes and regulations affecting electric and gas utilities as the states of Virginia, Delaware, and Maryland have allowed customer choice of competitive suppliers and alternative forms of regulation.

Since its inception, we have served as counsel to Virginia Energy Purchasing Governmental Association (VEPGA), the successor to the VML/VaCo Virginia Power Steering Committee, and have served it in matters impacting Virginia local governments in Virginia Power’s service territory. In that capacity, we have assisted counties and municipalities in negotiating multiple-year contracts with an electricity provider worth over $250 million per year. We have also assisted local governments with competitive purchases of “green” energy and renewable energy credits (also called “RECs”), as well as natural gas services. We also serve as counsel to other coalitions of local governments as customers of electricity and natural gas utilities.

Transmission Line and Utility Facility Siting
Christian & Barton’s attorneys have represented the interests of numerous participants in cases filed by public utilities seeking approval for construction of new electric transmission lines and other utility facilities, such as natural gas pipelines and telecommunications lines (click here for specific transmission line case experience). Clients have included community and homeowners associations, property developers, business owners, governmental authorities and municipalities.  We have worked closely with witnesses and consultants to address the issues that typically arise in such cases, including the need for facilities, routing and rights-of-way, design and construction, as well as adverse impacts on health and safety, homes, schools, the environment, endangered species, scenic assets, historic properties, recreation areas, business districts, and economic development.  We have helped develop and advocate plans for effective mitigation of such adverse impacts, including plans for underground constructions of facilities. 

Property Developers
Christian & Barton has represented builders, developers, and other property owners before the Virginia State Corporation Commission on utility regulatory matters.  We have been involved in the interpretation of utility tariffs and regulatory rules and laws establishing a utility’s rights pertaining to, and obligations to provide, service to new and existing developments.  We have also represented individual developers and groups of developers in negotiations with electric and gas utilities regarding the provision of such service.  Recently, Christian & Barton played a lead role, on behalf of a major builder, in the development of an electric cooperative’s guidelines for the installation of service to planned and existing developments.

Utility Acquisitions and Sales
Christian & Barton has assisted foreign and domestic entities with regard to their acquisition or sale of utilities or utility assets regulated by the Virginia State Corporation Commission.  This work has included advice and preparation of transaction documents with respect to regulatory due diligence and regulatory compliance, as well as representation in obtaining necessary regulatory approvals.

Independent Power Producers and Qualifying Facilities Under PURPA
Christian & Barton has for many years assisted independent power producers, as well as qualifying facilities under PURPA (the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978), in complying with federal and state regulations and obtaining regulatory approvals.  We also have assisted clients in the development and operation of non-utility generation, cogeneration, municipal waste, hydroelectric, and solar energy projects by, for example, analyzing and drafting power sales, steam sales, and fuel purchase contracts and reviewing financing and regulatory compliance documents.  We have participated in avoided cost cases before the public service commission, negotiated contracts for sale of electricity, assisted clients in obtaining interconnection agreements, and advised clients on sales into the PJM competitive wholesale market.

Water Distribution
Christian & Barton is a leader in representing consumers and suppliers of water utility services.  Our lawyers routinely are involved in regulatory matters before state agencies, and in direct negotiations involving suppliers and consumers of water services. For example, our firm has represented industrial users of water in all rate cases of the Virginia-American Water Company before the Virginia State Corporation Commission for more than a decade.  

Water utility case issues have included:

  • establishing the overall rates of the water utility
  • allocating costs among various customer classes
  • allocating costs between jurisdictional and non-jurisdictional customers
  • establishing appropriate rate designs
  • evaluating the reasonableness of plant investments

In addition, the firm has advised consumers on issues raised in the creation of a separate non-potable water system for industrial uses.

Christian & Barton also has served as the long-time counsel to one of Virginia’s largest municipal water utilities. This has included assistance in negotiating and drafting water sales agreements with other jurisdictions and the federal government as well as negotiating necessary environmental permits for water supplies and representation in regulatory development proceedings.  In addition, the firm has represented private water companies in negotiations and administrative proceedings, and represented property owners’ associations in negotiations and litigation with a Virginia water company over ownership issues, and rates and terms of service.