Picture of Eric L. Christensen

Eric L. Christensen

Partner
Energy, Telecommunications & Utilities Group, Chair

Primary Areas of Practice

Energy and Utility Law (including renewable project development, contracts, regulatory compliance, electric reliability compliance, environmental compliance, Bonneville Power Administration matters), Environmental & Natural Resources Law, Municipal Law, Complex Litigation, Appellate Litigation, Administrative Law, Business Law.

Education

Stanford Law School (J.D., 1987) (Order of the Coif, Graduation with Distinction)

  • Order of the Coif
  • President, Stanford Environmental Law Society
  • Member, Stanford Law Review
  • Vice-President, Stanford Public Interest Law Foundation
  • Olaus & Adolph Murie Award for Writing in Environmental Law

University of Kansas (B.S., Biology, 1984) (Highest Distinction)

  • Officer, Kansas Speech & Debate Society, earned honors and awards at debate tournaments throughout the United States
  • Rhodes Scholarship finalist

Jurisdictions Admitted to Practice

U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Courts of Appeal for D.C., Second, Fifth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Circuits
U.S. District Courts for District of Columbia, Western Washington, Idaho
Washington State & District of Columbia Courts

Professional & Bar Association Memberships

Washington State Bar Association

District of Columbia Bar Association

Energy Bar Association

Professional History

Joined firm in 2010
Snohomish County PUD, Everett, WA, Assistant General Counsel, 1997-2010
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC, Office of the Solicitor, 1992-97
Natural Resources Defense Council, Staff Attorney, 1990-91
Steptoe & Johnson, Washington, DC, Associate Attorney, 1987-90

Summary of Experience

  • Snohomish County PUD v. Enron: Spearheaded multidisciplinary teams conducting major litigation in multiple forums involving Enron crisis and bankruptcy, resulting in $1.6 billion judgment against Enron and contract settlement valued at approximately $165 million; Conducted interviews and obtained coverage in major media including CBS News, CNN, National Public Radio, New York Times, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, San Francisco Chronicle, Associated Press, and others; Materials obtained in discovery appear in the Oscar-nominated documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

  • Snohomish County PUD v. American Electric Power Service Corp.: Contract challenge resulted in settlement valued at approximately $13 million.

  • Snohomish County PUD v. Morgan Stanley Capital Group, Inc.:Primary counsel in ongoing complex litigation arising out of the Western electric power crisis of 2000-01, including successful appeal to the Ninth Circuit and major role in U.S. Supreme Court affirmance in Morgan Stanley Capital Group, Inc. v. Public Utility District No. 1 of Snohomish County, Washington, 128 S.Ct. 2733 (2008), $13.2 million settlement.

  • Litigation and Alternative Dispute Resolution: Briefed, argued, and managed appeals in U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Courts of Appeal, the Washington Supreme Court, the Washington Courts of Appeal, local courts, and in arbitration and mediation, involving major energy, municipal law, constitutional, and regulatory issues, including successful appeal of Bonneville Power Administration order valued at approximately $1 billion and appeals involving landmark Federal Energy Regulatory Commission orders on restructuring of the electric and natural gas industries, hydropower relicensing, offshore energy development, and related constitutional and administrative issues.

  • Renewable Energy Development: Drafted and negotiated contracts involving more than 220 megawatts of wind and solar energy capacity; successfully negotiated leasing for geothermal exploration on federal, state and private lands; negotiated purchase of low-impact hydroelectric facilities and successfully obtained licenses; negotiated complex inter-governmental agreement for renewable energy development; negotiated multiple contracts for the sale of Renewable Energy Credits.

  • Contracts: Drafted and negotiated energy purchase and sale contracts involving approximately 1500 megawatts of capacity, including output from the Pacific Northwest federal hydroelectric system, major natural gas and nuclear facilities, and market purchases. Leadership role in drafting amendments to widely-used form contract to allow for participation by public power entities. Drafted and negotiated contracts for complex computer systems, engineering & consulting services, real estate transactions, public-private partnerships, and many other issues.

  • Administrative Matters: Successful representation of public power entities in major, complex administrative matters involving regulation and restructuring of the electric utility industry, including formation of regional transmission organizations, electric reliability, integration of variable renewable generation resources onto the electric grid, and major rulemakings related to electric reliability compliance.

  • Advisory Matters: Advise public- and private-sector clients on a wide spectrum of complex matters, including water and natural resources law, compliance with renewable portfolio standards, energy trading risk management, Dodd-Frank compliance, regulation of greenhouse gases, environmental law, public contracting, public bidding statutes, U.S. and Washington constitutional issues, Public Records Act and FOIA, Open Public Meetings Act, and property issues.

Major Transactions

  • Transmission Development & Contracts: Advised developer of major transmission line using advanced HVDC technology concerning Bonneville Power Administration and regional energy matters, regulatory, contract, licensing, permitting and political issues. Drafted and negotiated contracting involving transfer of transmission rights on one of the major interties between the Northwest and California. Drafted and negotiated contract to secure capacity on Bonneville Power Administration system through 2028. Drafted and negotiated a series of complex contracts among Puget Sound-area utilities creating coordinated strategy to address transmission curtailments.

  • Power Supply & Interconnection Contracts: Negotiation and drafting of major long-term contracts with BPA, including 17-year contract for purchase of power for BPA’s largest customer under complex “Slice/Block” structure and “TRM” construct; drafting and negotiation of transmission contracts; and, drafting and negotiation of interconnection and balancing services contracts. Drafted and negotiated major long-term power supply contracts with private power marketers. Drafted and negotiated contracts for interconnection and transmission of power from proposed 500 MW natural gas generation station.

  • Wind Power Contracts: Drafted and negotiated contracts for all output from Iberdrola Renewables’ 100.8 MW Hay Canyon Wind Project, all output from Horizon Wind Energy’s 96.6 MW Wheat Field Wind Project, and share of output from White Creek Wind Project from project participant Lakeview Power & Light, including contracts for corporate parental guarantees, financing agreements, performance guarantees, and related subsidiary contracts.

  • Hydropower Acquisition and Construction: Drafted and negotiated contracts for the acquisition of real estate and project assets, public works contracts, contracts for environmental and other services, road access, and acquisition of materials related to construction of Snohomish County PUD’s $29 million Youngs Creek Hydroelectric Project. Also represented the District in transfer of FERC license and related issues, and permitting issues arising with U.S. Forest Service, Snohomish County and Washington state agencies. Youngs Creek is the first hydro project to go online in Washington in nearly two decades and is the winner of Renewable Energy World’s 2012 Hydro Project of the Year award and the “2012 Honor Award” from the Seattle Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Conducted due diligence review, site inspection, and legal analyses related to acquisition and potential acquisition of major existing Northwest hydroelectric project, and for acquisition of licensed but unbuilt projects.

  • Geothermal Transactions: Drafted and negotiated contracts concerning geothermal lease, drilling and access rights on private, state and federal lands, and worked with project team to obtain necessary licenses and permits from the Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Forest Service. Negotiated agreement for geothermal exploration involving approximately 500,000 acres of privately-owned forest lands in Washington, and Oregon. Negotiated and drafted agency agreement aimed at obtaining geothermal exploration contract in Nicaragua.

  • Solar Contracts: Drafted and negotiated contracts for development of Oregon solar project involving private developer, Washington publicly-owned utilities, and electric coop, to obtain power output, interconnection, and transmission rights. Negotiated a variety of contracts related to solar demonstration and community-owned solar projects. Developed strategy for maximizing value of solar development in the Pacific Northwest based on federal and state tax incentives, rebates, portfolio requirements, and RFP requirements.

  • Biomass: Drafted and negotiated both the original and the revised contracts to interconnect and purchase output from the Hampton Mills biomass generator in Darrington, Washington.

  • Biogas: Drafted and negotiated contracts for the interconnection and purchase of power from the Qualco Diary Digester, then negotiated innovative agreement to transfer power output to Puget Sound Energy. Drafted and negotiated both the original and renewal contracts for purchase of output from the Klickitat PUD landfill gas generator and landfill gas generator at Cathcart, WA.

  • REC Contracts: Drafted and negotiated a number of contracts for sale of Renewable Energy Credits from the renewable energy projects.

  • Major Asset Sales: Represented co-owner of Washington’s largest coal-fired power plant in sale of plant, including obtaining all required regulatory approvals, contracting, and closing.

Reported Cases and Major Litigation

  • Kootenai Electric Cooperative, Inc., 143 FERC ¶ 61,232 (2013) (co-counsel for rural electric cooperative; obtained declaratory order from FERC clarifying that coop’s transmission rights allow it to deliver power from its Idaho “Qualifying Facility” into Oregon to obtain favorable “avoided cost” rates under PURPA).

  • Lakey et al. v. Puget Sound Energy, Inc., 176 Wash.2d 909, 296 P.3d 860 (2013) (amicus brief filed on behalf of Washington Public Utility Districts Association, Snohomish County PUD, Clark County PUD & Seattle City Light successfully defeating nuisance claim for exposure to electromagnetic fields).

  • Greater Wenatchee Regional Events Center Public Facilities District v. City of Wenatchee , Washington Supreme Court No. 86552-3 (decision issued October 25, 2012) (represented Public Facilities District in challenge involving interpretation of municipal debt limits under Washington State Constitution) (co-counsel with Donald S. Cohen).

  • Enron Power Marketing, Inc., et al. , 119 FERC 63,013 (2007), vacated as moot in light of settlement , 123 FERC 61,249 (2008), order reinstated, 126 FERC 61,230 (2009) (headed legal team in administrative trial resulting in order for disgorgement of $1.6 billion in unjust profits from Enron Corp. and declaration that $180 million "termination payment" sought from client is unjust and unreasonable and therefore contrary to the Federal Power Act).

  • Portland General Electric Co. v. Bonneville Power Administration , 501 F.3d 1109 (9th Cir. 2007) & Golden Northwest Aluminum Co. v. Bonneville Power Administration , 501 F.3d 1037 (9th Cir. 2007), cert. denied, 128 S. Ct. 2902 (2008) (supervised group of attorneys who successfully challenged BPA contracts involving the Northwest Power Act's Residential Exchange Program, ultimately resulting in savings of approximately $1 billion to publicly-owned utility customers of BPA; primary drafter of joint brief successfully opposing Supreme Court review of related case)(related case: Public Utility District No. 1 of Snohomish County, Washington v. Bonneville Power Administration , 506 F.3d 1145 (9th Cir. 2007)).

  • Public Utility District No. 1 of Snohomish County, Washington v. Morgan Stanley Capital Group, Inc. , 471 F.3d 1053 (9th Cir. 2006), aff'd and remanded, Morgan Stanley Capital Group, Inc. v. Public Utility District No. 1 of Snohomish County, Washington , 128 S.Ct. 2733 (2008) (successfully briefed and argued challenge to major FERC order in the Ninth Circuit; primary drafter of joint Supreme Court brief).

  • Spectrum Glass Co. v. Public Utility District No. 1 of Snohomish County, Washington , 119 P.3d 854 (Wash. App. Div. I, 2005) (briefed and assisted in successful defense of claim asserting that utility had entered into fixed-rate contract for power supply).

  • Public Utility District No. 1 of Snohomish County, Washington v. FERC , 272 F.3d 607 (D.C. Cir. 2001) (successfully briefed and argued challenge to FERC Order No. 2000 suggesting it could approve Regional Transmission Organization in the absence of clear showing of consumer benefits).

  • Union Pacific Fuels, LP v. FERC , 129 F.3d 157 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (briefed and argued successful defense of agency order concerning natural gas pipeline ratemaking).

  • Southwest Center for Biological Diversity v. FERC , 967 F. Supp. 1166 (D. Az. 1997) (successful defense of agency order concerning compliance with Endangered Species Act in context of hydroelectric licensing).

  • Public Utilities Commission of California v. FERC , 100 F.3d 1451 (9th Cir. 1996) (briefed and argued successful defense of agency order concerning federal jurisdiction over natural gas pipeline).

  • Associated Gas Distributors v. FERC , 88 F.3d 1105 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (successful defense of FERC's landmark Order No. 636, which resulted in major restructuring of regulation of the natural gas industry).

  • Association of Oil Pipelines v. FERC , 83 F.3d 1424 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (briefed and argued successful defense of major order reforming regulation of oil pipeline industry).

  • Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. v. FERC , 78 F.3d 659 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (briefed and argued challenge to agency order concerning fish passage requirements for federally-licensed hydroelectric project).

  • National Fuel Gas Supply Corp. v. FERC , 59 F.3d 1281 (D.C. Cir. 1995) (briefed and argued successful defense of agency order reforming natural gas pipeline contracts).

  • El Paso Natural Gas Co. v. FERC , 50 F.3d 23 (D.C. Cir. 1995) (briefed and argued successful defense of agency order concerning jurisdiction over natural gas facilities crossing international border).

  • Shell Oil Co. v. FERC , 47 F.3d 1186 (D.C. Cir. 1995) (briefed and argued successful defense of agency order concerning regulation of offshore oil pipelines under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act).

  • Independent Energy Producers Association, Inc. v. California Public Utilities Commission , 36 F.3d 848 (9th Cir. 1994) (filed brief for amicus curiae concerning scope of federal preemption for setting rates for independent power producers under the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act)

  • Wisconsin Public Service Commission v. FERC , 32 F.3d 1165 (7th Cir. 1994) (successfully briefed and argued appeal of agency ordered concerning authority to require construction of fish passage facilities on federally-licensed hydroelectric projects).

  • Town of Boylston v. FERC , 21 F3d 1130 (D.C. Cir. 1994) (briefed and argued case involving charges for nuclear decommissioning costs).

  • Elizabethtown Gas Co. v. FERC , 10 F.3d 866 (D.C. Cir. 1993) (briefed and argued successful defense of agency order allowing "unbundling" of natural gas pipeline transmission and commodity rates and allowing market-based rates for commodity).

  • Northeast Utilities Service Co. v. FERC , 993 F.2d 937 (1st Cir. 1993) (briefed case involving major utility merger).

  • Northwest Pipeline Corp. v. FERC , 986 F.2d 1330 (10th Cir. 1993) (briefed and argued successful defense of agency order involving take-or-pay charges paid by natural gas pipeline).

  • Habersham Mills v. FERC , 976 F.2d 1381 (11th Cir. 1992) (briefed and argued successful defense of federal hydropower licensing authority against attack on Commerce Clause grounds).

  • Friends of the Ompompanoosuc v. FERC , 968 F.2d 1549 (2nd Cir. 1992) (briefed and argued successful defense of agency order granting federal license to small hydroelectric power developer).

Major Administrative Matters

  • Bulk Electric System Definition Rulemaking: Drafted and filed extensive comments on Federal Energy Regulatory Commission proposed rulemaking concerning key "Bulk Electric System" definition on behalf of a coalition of public power entities representing more than 200 individual utilities across the Western Interconnection. Represented major Pacific Northwest utility in administrative proceedings before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Western Electricity Coordinating Council concerning definition of "Bulk Electric System," a critical issue for defining the scope of federal electric reliability regulation.

  • Integration of Renewable Resources: Filed extensive comments on behalf of a major Western utility in response to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission request for comments and notice of proposal rulemaking concerning measures considered by FERC to improve integration of renewable generation, principally wind and solar power, into interconnected electric grid.

  • Regional Transmission Organization: Successfully represented major public power utility in opposing regional transmission organization in the Pacific Northwest, including opposition at federal level, litigation (including successful appeal of FERC Order No. 2000), participation in West-wide and regional processes aimed at creating a regional transmission organization. Helped craft compromise that allowed formation of regional transmission planning body to capture many of the benefits of the RTO at substantially lower costs.

  • Bonneville Power Administration: Represented Bonneville's largest customer in critical Bonneville administrative proceedings, including "Subscription" process (plan for allocating BPA capacity following expiration of all BPA contracts in 2001), "Regional Dialogue" (long-term plan for allocation of BPA resources, resulting in "Tiered Rate Methodology"), "Residential Exchange" (administrative and court proceedings challenging large payments to regional investor-owned utilities by BPA), and power and transmission rate cases.

Community Activities

Member, City of Bothell Shorelines Board
Member, Church Council & Litigation Committee, Northshore United Church of Christ
Assistant Scoutmaster, BSA Troop 535, Bothell, Washington

Honors, Publications & Presentations

Awards
  • American Public Power Association James E. Donovan Award for Individual Achievement
  • Everett (WA) Area Chamber of Commerce, Employee of the Year
  • American Public Power Association, Recognition for Achievement in Legal Field
  • Public Power Council Special Award
  • Idaho State High School Debate Champion
  • Idaho State Champion, Humorous Interpretive Speech
 
Selected Publications
  • “Cover Story: EIM, RTOs, and FERC Jurisdiction: Does Participation in a Regional Energy Imbalance Market Subject Public Power to FERC Jurisdiction?” Northwest Public Power Association Bulletin (May 2013).
  • “The Wind Hits the Fan: The Pacific Northwest Struggles to Integrate Its Rapidly Growing Wind Fleet,” POWER Magazine (April 2013).
  • “Electric Reliability and the Bulk Electric System Definition: Next Steps for Reducing Regulatory Burdens,” Northwest Public Power Association Bulletin (February 2013).
  • “A Guide to the Byzantine: The New ‘Bulk Electric System’ Definition Promises to Simplify Public Power Compliance With Electric Reliability Rules,” Northwest Public Power Association Bulletin (November 2012).
  • “Cover Story: The Old West Meets the New: The Columbia River Treaty in the 21st Century,” Northwest Public Power Association Bulletin (June 2012).
  • “Diversity Compensation Systems: Ways to Compensate Developing Nations for Providing Genetic Material,” Seeds & Sovereignty: Debate Over the Use of Plant Genetic Resources at 338 (J. Kloppenberg, ed., 1988) (co-author with Professor John Barton)
  • “Genetic Ark: A Proposal to Preserve Genetic Diversity for Future Generations,” 40 Stanford Law Review 279 (1987).
Selected Presentations
  • “Ten Things I Hate About You: FERC and the Pacific Northwest Power Markets,” Northwest Power & Conservation Council Symposium on Pacific Northwest Power Markets, Seattle, WA (July 8, 2013).
  • “PURPA Haze: PURPA Litigation in the Northwest and What It Means for Public Power,” Washington Association of PUD and Municipal Attorneys, Union, WA (June 20, 2013).
  • “Transmission Optimization: A Report Card,” Law Seminars International, Electric Transmission in the West Conference, Seattle WA (May 20, 2013).