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Energy Regulatory Work

Overview

The Varnum regulatory practice helps energy developers obtain approvals for new generation projects. We also promote competition in the energy sector, representing businesses that provide or use electricity in competition with the investor-owned utilities.

Varnum is one of the few large firms in Michigan that can offer representation of independent power users and producers, as we do not represent Michigan's large investor-owned utilities on energy matters. Our energy practice attorneys have familiarity and understanding of the workings of the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) and our team includes attorneys who have served on the MPSC, including as chair.

We have significant experience litigating and practicing before the MPSC, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other key U.S. and state agencies that affect the energy industry. We have litigated antitrust issues, regulatory issues and contractual issues in state and federal courts. Our experience includes:

  • Exempt wholesale generators, independent power producers and cogeneration—financing, construction startups, power sale agreements, utility commission approvals, fuel purchase contracts, environmental permits and tax assistance.
  • Municipal and cooperative utilities—litigation, rate matters, franchises, antitrust actions and environmental protection.
  • Nuclear and fossil fuel plant construction and operation—construction disputes, municipal bonding, environmental permitting, power purchase agreement negotiation and fuel supply.
  • Deregulation and retail wheeling—negotiation and pricing of retail wheeling agreements, representation of energy marketers before the MPSC and Michigan state legislature to further develop Michigan’s Open Access Program, litigation of related issues before state administrative and judicial bodies.

We regularly appear before the MPSC on behalf of our clients, commenting on or submitting testimony in 15 to 20 cases annually. These range from rate cases to annual power supply recovery cases, as well as individual complaint petition cases.

We often intervene in order to provide a counterpoint to positions taken by the investor-owned utilities in Michigan on various issues including:

  • PURPA avoided cost
  • Standby rates for self-generation
  • Power plant approvals
  • Alternative energy supplier requirements and certifications
  • Industrial, commercial and residential retail rates

In addition, we have advised independent power producers, out-of-state utilities and alternative energy suppliers on legislative matters, including assisting in the preparation and testimony before the Michigan legislature.

We also advise and prepare clients who need to participate in the political process at all levels in Michigan. Our clients include:

  • Alternative energy suppliers
  • Independent power producers
  • Retail customers
  • Trade associations 

Experience

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