Category Archives: Energy Law

Blockchain Technology Overview

When and if to use blockchain

Aiming to clarify blockchain, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently released an introduction to blockchain, which underpins Bitcoin and other digital currencies.

Credit: K. Irvine/NIST/Shutterstock



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Answers to Frequent Questions about CHP

Considering Combined Heat and Power (CHP) to save money, enhance reliability, and benefit the environment?  The EPA CHP Partnership and Prince Law Offices can help. 

 CHP Partnership Logo

What is CHP?

Typically, nearly two-thirds of the energy used to generate electricity is wasted in the form of heat discharged to the atmosphere. Additional energy is wasted during the distribution of electricity to end users. CHP is on-site electricity generation that captures the heat that would otherwise be wasted to provide useful thermal energy—such as steam or hot water—that can be used for space heating, cooling, domestic hot water and industrial processes. In this way, and by avoiding distribution losses, CHP can achieve efficiencies of over 80 percent, compared to 50 percent for conventional technologies (i.e., grid-supplied electricity and an on-site boiler).

Learn more in Discover CHP.

What are the benefits of CHP?

CHP offers a number of benefits compared to conventional electricity and thermal energy production, including:

  • Efficiency Benefits. CHP requires less fuel to produce a given energy output and avoids transmission and distribution losses that occur when electricity travels over power lines.
  • Environmental Benefits. Because less fuel is burned to produce each unit of energy output and because transmission and distribution losses are avoided, CHP reduces emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants.
  • Economic Benefits. CHP can save facilities considerable money on their energy bills due to its high efficiency, and it can provide a hedge against electricity cost increases.
  • Reliability Benefits. Unreliable electricity service represents a quantifiable business, safety, and health risk for some companies and organizations. CHP is an on-site generation resource and can be designed to support continued operations in the event of a disaster or grid disruption by continuing to provide reliable electricity.

Learn more in CHP Benefits.

Where does CHP make sense?

CHP is ideally suited for energy users that have both electric and thermal energy demands.

CHP is used in many different types and sizes of facilities nationwide, including:

  • Commercial buildings—office buildings, hotels, health clubs, nursing homes
  • Residential—condominiums, co-ops, apartments, planned communities
  • Institutions—colleges and universities, hospitals, prisons, military bases
  • Municipal—district energy systems, wastewater treatment facilities, K-12 schools
  • Manufacturers—chemical, refining, ethanol, pulp and paper, food processing, glass manufacturing

Learn more in Discover CHP.

Desire more specific assistance regarding CHP, renewable energy projects, energy law, or real estate law, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.


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PaPUC Initiates Further Study of Supplier Consolidated Billing by Electric Generation Suppliers

puc_sealOn January 18, 2018, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) initiated further study of customer billing practices by competitive electric generations suppliers (EGSs) – directing an en banc hearing be conducted before the Commission to explore, among other things, the legality, merits and potential implementation of supplier consolidated billing (SCB).

The Commission voted 5-0 to deny a petition filed by NRG Energy Inc. (NRG), requesting approval of SCB, but also approved a joint motion by Chairman Gladys M. Brown and Commissioner Norman J. Kennard to further explore the the merits of possible alternatives to SCB.

Under SCB, customers would receive a single, consolidated bill from their chosen EGS that would include both their electric distribution company’s (EDC) distribution charges and their EGS’s generation and transmission charges.  Currently in Pennsylvania, EDCs handle all customer billing, with the EDC joint bill including any generation and transmission charges for customers with competitive EGSs.

The joint motion by Chairman Brown and Commissioner Kennard outlined the ongoing exploration of the issue by the Commission.

“We continue to be of the opinion previously expressed by the Commission as part of our retail electricity market investigation that SCB will facilitate the offering of innovative new products and services and will also help the supplier in establishing a brand identity with the customer,” Commissioner Kennard stated in the joint motion. “In order to continue the consideration of SCB and other programs that can promote a competitive market and benefit customers, we find that it is necessary to seek further information.”

The Commissioners’ joint motion directs the PUC’s Law Bureau and Office of Competitive Market Oversight (OCMO) to organize an en banc hearing, to occur on or before June 14, 2018, to allow invited parties the opportunity to provide additional information on SCB or SCB alternatives.  The Commission plans to issue a Secretarial Letter with more details on the en banc hearing.

To learn how Prince Law Offices, P.C. can assist you or your business with energy law and PUC matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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After Three Years, PennEast Pipeline Approved by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Construction to Begin

FERCThe Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued an Order under section 7(c) of the Natural Gas Act approving construction of the PennEast Pipeline.

PennEast Pipeline Logo

Anthony Cox, Chair of the PennEast Pipeline Company LLC Board of Managers said “They will reap the benefits of accessing one of the most affordable and abundant supplies of natural gas in all of North America. PennEast will lower gas and electricity costs, increase reliability, improve air quality, and make the region more competitive for jobs in the coming decades.”

The approximately 120-mile pipeline route begins in the Marcellus Shale production area near Dallas, Pennsylvania, and connects with the existing underground Transcontinental Pipeline near Pennington, New Jersey. The route includes 24 municipalities in Pennsylvania and six in New Jersey.

Access to additional natural gas supplies via PennEast Pipeline should reduce the cost of gas in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, even during non-peak periods. Natural gas prices in the market areas worsen during periods of peak demand, such as the sustained recent cold snap, where natural gas prices spiked 31 times higher in New Jersey than supplies in the Pennsylvania production areas. This is due to pipeline constraints and inadequate supply to meet demand.

Since 2005, natural gas use has more than doubled in New Jersey and increased five-fold in Pennsylvania for electric generation. As a result, carbon emissions are dropping to their lowest level in nearly three decades while air quality has improved across the region. A diverse fuel supply and the reliability of the electric grid are the primary reasons PJM Interconnection, the largest electric grid operator in the world, cited in an October 2016 report to FERC that the PennEast Pipeline is needed for grid reliability.

FERC issued its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) first under the Obama Administration in July 2016, and finalized its recommendations after nearly nine months of additional public input. The Final EIS in April 2017 affirmed that construction and operation of the PennEast Pipeline would have minimal environmental impact, which would be reduced to “less than significant levels” with PennEast’s and FERC’s mitigation measures.  The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection under Democrat Governor Tom Wolf issued its 401 Water Quality Certification in February, and in May, the United States Environmental Protection Agency Region 3 added that the Final EIS included “improved safeguards for the protection of human health and the environment.”

Additionally, the PennEast Pipeline Company updated its estimated in-service date to 2019, with construction still beginning in 2018. The original project timeline allowed for many variables, though did not anticipate the many months without a voting quorum at FERC.

“In the coming days, we will work to finalize fair and positive compensation agreements with landowners,” added Cox. “In the weeks ahead, survey crews will collect remaining field data in support of our permit applications to ensure minimal environmental and community impact. We look forward to continuing our work with state, bi-state and regional permitting agencies and expect those permit reviews to be conducted on the merits of the application, without outside interference.”

If you or your business have questions regarding energy law or real estate law, including right of way and easement negotiations, condemnations or eminent domain, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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When the Lights Go Out – Black Sky Power Outage Mass Event – Preparedness

What would you do if you didn’t have power for an extended period of time? For one week? For one month? For six months? “EARTH EX” is designed to help you think through this scenario and increase your preparedness.

Leadership and staff from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC), Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and Pennsylvania Governor’s Office of Homeland Security today, August 23, 2017, joined with government agencies, utilities, emergency responders and other stakeholders around the world in a first-ever transnational exercise to test responses to a large-scale power outage event.

Today’s Pennsylvania involvement in EARTH EX 2017 is part of a continuing collaboration of public and private sector leaders to strengthen the state’s effort to prepare for “Black Sky” events – defined as extraordinary, wide-reaching events capable of producing power outages that last significantly longer than typical weather or operational outages.

Because of the large-scale nature of Black Sky events, they have the potential to impact not only electricity, but also other critical systems, such as natural gas, water, wastewater treatment, telecommunications and transportation services. These events could be caused by a cyber-attack on the electric grid, severe weather or physical attacks.

“Black Sky events have the potential to disrupt essential services across large areas, impacting the lives of millions of people,” said PUC Chairman Gladys M. Brown. “It is essential that we work collectively to address these threats, because it will require the work of government, private sector and not-for-profit organizations to better safeguard our critical systems, strengthen our response and enhance our ability to recover from Black Sky events.”

“This exercise gives us the opportunity to work with our partners in preparedness, response and recovery to identify ways we can work together more efficiently and effectively in the event of a Black Sky incident,” said PEMA Director Richard D. Flinn, Jr.

“Planning exercises like EARTH EX are a critical part of developing an effective, coordinated response to a Black Sky event,” said Marcus L. Brown, director of Pennsylvania’s Office of Homeland Security. “The lessons learned will help all of the participants prepare for, and recover from, a catastrophic disruption of electricity and other essential services.”

Pennsylvania’s first Black Sky exercise – one of the first in the country – was held in June 2016, hosted by the PUC and Gov. Tom Wolf. Since that time, the PUC, PEMA and the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security have continued to integrate Black Sky planning and practice into broader discussions about emergency response planning.

Today’s EARTH EX exercise, developed by the Electric Infrastructure Security Council (EIS Council), is the first phase of a nearly year-long series of international exercises intended to develop, test and enhance planning and preparation for Black Sky events. EIS Council hosts national and international collaborations on resilience and whole community restoration and response planning, addressing severe, national and global scale hazards to lifeline infrastructures.

If you or your business have legal questions or concerns regarding disaster preparedness, computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices. Learn more about preparedness at EARTH EX 2017.  Tell us how you are preparing in the comments.

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FTC Cybersecurity Roundtables with Small Businesses

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is hosting small business owners in a series of public roundtables across the United States to discuss the most pressing challenges small businesses face in protecting the security of their computers and networks.

Engage, connect, protect - small business & data security roundtablesThe Engage, Connect, and Protect Initiative: Small Business and Data Security Roundtables are part of an ongoing initiative by Acting FTC Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen aimed at helping small businesses, which included the launch of a new website in May focused on helping small business owners avoid scams and protect their computers and networks from cyberattacks. There are more than 28 million small businesses nationwide, employing nearly 57 million people, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA).

“The FTC has been a leader in guiding businesses of all sizes on how to protect the data in their care,” Acting Chairman Ohlhausen said. “Companies with only a few employees face unique challenges when it comes to cybersecurity. We’ll use what we learn in the roundtables to tailor our practical resource materials for small businesses.”

The first roundtable event will take place July 25 in Portland, Oregon, in partnership with the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), the SBA, and other organizations. This event will be followed by a roundtable discussion in Cleveland, Ohio, on September 6, hosted by the FTC and the Council of Smaller Enterprises and in collaboration with the SBA. Another roundtable event will take place later in September in Des Moines, Iowa, sponsored by the NCSA.

The roundtables will bring together FTC staff along with the SBA and other federal partners, industry associations, and the small business community. The comments and feedback generated by the roundtables will be used to help the FTC and its partners provide additional education and guidance for small business owners on cybersecurity issues.

If you or your business have questions or concerns regarding fraud, computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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Central PA Residents & Businesses Switching to 10-Digit Dialing in ‘717’ Area Code in August

puc_sealThe Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today reminded residents and businesses across Central Pennsylvania served by the 717 area code of the upcoming switch to 10-digit dialing for all local calls – in preparation for the activation of a new “overlay” area code, which will serve the entire region.

According to the implementation schedule for the “223” overlay area code, mandatory 10-digit dialing for all local calls will begin on Aug. 26, 2017. Starting on that date, if callers only dial a seven-digit number, they will reach a recorded announcement instructing them to hang up and redial the number using the area code plus the seven-digit number.

For the past several months, telephone callers in the 16-county 717 service area have been encouraged to voluntarily use 10-digit dialing (717 + the full local telephone number). The new 223 overlay area was approved based on forecasts that the remaining supply of available telephone numbers in the 717 area code was close to exhaustion.

According to Neustar, Inc., the neutral third party area code relief planner for Pennsylvania, the dialing plan for the 717/223 area code is as follows:

  • Local & Toll calls from the 717/223 area to other numbers inside the 717/223 area:
    Dial 10-digits (717 or 223 + XXX-XXXX)
  • Local & Toll Calls from the 717/223 area to numbers in another area code:
    Dial 1 + 10-Digits (1 + XXX-XXX-XXXX)
  • Operator Services (Credit card, collect, third party):
    Dial 0 + 10-digit (0 + XXX-XXX-XXXX)

The PUC’s Order approving the overlay plan specifies that any new numbers for the 223 overlay area code shall not be released until Sept. 26, 2017, and that requests for numbers in the 717 area code will continue to be honored as long as resources are available.

To learn how Prince Law Offices, P.C. can assist you or your business with telecommunications law and PUC matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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