Located on what is arguably the frontier of U.S. renewable energy development, lawyers in Tonkon Torp's energy practice group are finding their reputation in the traditional energy arena is leading to increasing work in solar, wind and other alternative energy throughout the West.
Fourteen of Tonkon Torp's 84 attorneys are providing interdisciplinary counsel to both renewable and "traditional" energy companies, government entities, manufacturers and operators. Issues range from tax credits and tax equity financing to real estate, environmental, regulatory and government relations matters.
Practice co-chairs reflect interdisciplinary approach
Growth of the firm's energy practice group has led to appointment of two new co-chairs, David J. Petersen and David F. White, attorneys with complementary but significantly different backgrounds.
Petersen's practice is focused on renewable energy development, land use and local government law. He has provided counsel on solar and wind energy projects totaling over 5,000 megawatts in nearly 20 states. Petersen is a sought after speaker at regional and industry renewable energy forums. Prior to joining Tonkon Torp in 2003, he practiced land use law in California. He earned his law degree in 1998 from Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley.
White practices energy and administrative law with a focus on state and federal regulatory matters. In addition to represent energy utilities in rate making proceedings before state public utility commissions and the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), he also represents renewable energy clients in negotiating power purchase agreements and the purchase and sale of renewable energy credits. In 2009, he participated in BPA transmission rate proceedings which established rates for integrating wind generation facilities. White graduated from Harvard Law School in 1993 and joined Tonkon Torp in 2000 after serving as senior counsel with AT&T Corp.
"Tonkon Torp's long history of representing traditional utilities in regulatory, finance, permitting and ownership issues has provided a solid foundation of interdisciplinary experience and perspective from which to expand our practice into renewable energy," said Michael Morgan, managing partner. "We understand the energy business and are able to provide immediate value to clients who are competing in today's complex energy development and delivery marketplace."
In addition to its work on numerous solar energy projects, the firm serves as counsel to the Oregon Solar Energy Industries Association and has represented clients in wind, ethanol, biomass and other emerging energy categories.
"Tonkon Torp's focus on practical, cost-effective legal solutions and timely responsivness is a real asset on complicated large-scale renewable energy development projects," said Scott Piscitello, Senior Vice President for Development of RES Americas, Inc., a Broomfield, Colorado-based renewable energy company. "On our Lower Snake River project in southeast Washington, Tonkon Torp provided expert assistance in negotiating leases, reviewing and curing title problems, and advising on numerous transactional issues, of all which helped produce an excellent result for RES and for the region."
In the traditional energy arena, the firm has represented utilities in rate cases before the Public Utility Commission and, in the crossover of traditional and renewable energy, is working on the first implementation plans under the Oregon Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). The RPS law requires utilities to provide five percent of their power from renewable sources by 2011, 15 percent by 2015 and 25 percent by 2025. Current proceedings will establish how the utilities intend to comply with the law for the next five years as well as the cost of compliance.
"The country's energy marketplace is in transition, and bringing alternative energy projects to successful fruition requires knowledgeable, cost-effective legal solutions," said Petersen. "We can tailor a team of experts to address the unique needs of any project."
About Tonkon Torp
Tonkon Torp LLP is a leading business and litigation law firm serving public companies, substantial private enterprises, entrepreneurial businesses and individuals throughout the Northwest. For more information, visit tonkon.com.