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Energy Law: Home

A guide to researching Energy law for law students, bar examinees, and other researchers.


Department of Energy:  The cabinet-level department of the federal government responsible for advising the President on energy policies, plans, and programs, and for providing leadership in achieving efficient energy use, diversity in energy sources, and improved environmental quality.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission: An independent five-member commission in the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for licensing hydroelectric-power projects and for setting interstate rates on (1) transporting and selling natural gas for resale, (2) transporting and selling electricity at wholesale, and (3) transporting oil by pipeline.

Take-or-Pay Contract: A contract requiring the buyer to either purchase and receive a minimum amount of a product (“take”) or pay for this minimum without taking immediate delivery (“pay”). These contracts are often used in the energy and oil-and-gas businesses.

Solar Easement: An easement created to protect the dominant estate's exposure to direct sunlight, often created to prevent the servient-estate owner from constructing any building that would cause shadows on the dominant estate.

Automatic-Adjustment Clause: A provision in a utility-rate schedule that allows a public utility to increase its rates without a public hearing or state review, if certain operating costs, such as the price of fuel, increase.

Mobile-Sierra Doctrine: The principle that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission may not grant a rate increase to a natural-gas producer unless the producer's contract authorizes a rate increase, or unless the existing rate is so low that it may adversely affect the public interest (as by threatening the continued viability of the public utility to continue its service).

All definitons from Black's Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019). 


For most of American history, the federal government did not play an active role in the energy industries. Early regulation began with the Federal Power Act of 1920, which created the Federal Power Commission. In 1977, The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) was established within the newly created Department of Energy and assumed the functions several agencies, including the Federal Power Commission. FERC is an independent regulatory agency that oversees the natural gas, oil, and electricity markets in the U.S. FERC regulates the transmission and sale of these energies (except the sale of oil), provides licenses for hydroelectric plants, and reacts to environmental matters that arise. The Commission is headed by five presidential appointees, only three of which can be from the same political party, who serve five year terms. FERC utilizes an internal dispute resolution system, reducing the number of disputes that reach the federal courts. The nuclear power industry is regulated by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), whose mission it is to protect the public health and safety from nuclear radiation and waste. The NRC also promotes the common defense through a regime of rulemaking, inspection, and licensing.

Description from the Legal Information Institute, (last visited 10/27/2015).

Subscription Databases

Bloomberg Law: Under the Legislative & Regulatory Tab, select Regulatory Resources. On the new page scroll down to the section entitled Legal Analysis & News. From there you can select Energy & Environment page, which provides a list of reports, news searches, and search options for the Federal Register.

Lexis Advance: You can browse generally by selecting Energy & Utilities Law under the All Practice Areas & Topics, or you can select Energy & Utilities Law under the Browse Topics tab located above the search box. There you can choose from a small number of preselected topics or search for additional topics.

Westlaw: Under the Practice Areas tab of the Browse menu located on the main page select Energy & Employment.  On the new page you can browse Energy Law materials by type, or you can search specific employment topics in the search box at the top.

Subject Guide

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DSIRE: Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency: DSIRE is the most comprehensive source of information on incentives and policies that support renewables and energy efficiency in the United States. Established in 1995, DSIRE is currently operated by the N.C. Solar Center at N.C. State University, with support from the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc. DSIRE is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Department of Energy: This website provides citizens with up-to-date information, blogs, and news about energy, science and innovation, and nuclear safety and security. There is also an Energy Saver section for consumers.

FERC: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission: Here you can find a wealth of information about specific energy industries, FERC enforcement, current projects in your area, and legal resources related to energy law.