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Roth: When ‘America First’ meets American solar energy

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on September 25, 2017.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

When ‘America First’ meets American solar energy

The plot thickens in the Suniva and SolarWorld case before the International Trade Commission.

On Friday, the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that imported solar panels and modules are causing serious injury to U.S. manufacturers, giving the president the final say about tariffs in this high-profile case that could unravel the American solar industry.

Parties on both sides claimed that a vote in favor (or one against) could devastate the rooftop solar industry.

Section 201 of the 1974 Trade Act refers to global safeguard investigations and is an infrequently used measure that allows a petition to be filed when domestic manufacturers assert serious injury to their industry due to an influx of foreign imports. After an investigation and finding of injury, the act authorizes the president to intervene.

U.S. solar crystalline silicon photovoltaic manufacturers Suniva and SolarWorld have declared that competition from cheap imports is adversely affecting the industry here in America. The companies cite their recent bankruptcy filing and the failure of other solar manufacturers across the country in recent years as their proof.

But the industry’s trade group, Solar Energy Industries Association, also suggests that as many as 88,000 U.S. jobs – many of them solar manufacturers and installers – could be lost if the imported panels face higher tariffs, and thus were to raise the cost to Americans for solar energy. What’s more, while each has a presence in the U.S., Suniva and SolarWorld are both foreign-owned companies arguing for the American market.

So why does it matter? Power generated by solar energy has increased significantly as a viable option due in part to how cheap solar energy is becoming. This fast-moving downward cost trajectory is due to significant improvements in the technologies and also less-expensive, imported panels. It follows naturally that cheaper imports have allowed the installation side of the industry to flourish as the investments make more sense for individuals and companies to install solar on their homes and businesses. If the petitioners are granted the increased tariffs, the cost of solar panels is projected to more than double.

A remedy hearing will be held at which the commission will issue recommendations to the president. The act empowers the president to deal with those recommendations as he sees fit, including the liberty to make them more severe, less so, or not implement them at all. This fact has solar industry stakeholders paying close attention given the president’s repeated threats to increase tariffs on Chinese imports both as a way to improve U.S. manufacturing, and to bolster the coal industry by diminishing renewable energies strong growth in America.

It will be November before we know what the proposed remedy will look like. Stay tuned to see if Chinese solar panels prove to be the “tariff silver platter” the president has been requesting. While punishing cheaper imports may be an “America First” argument for manufacturers, in this instance it appears it could be the opposite effect for American consumers.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah P.C. in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Four Phillips Murrah attorneys chosen as Lawyers of the Year

Phillips Murrah is proud to announce that four of our Directors have been named Lawyers of the Year on The Best Lawyers in America© 2018 list in Oklahoma City.

2018 Lawyers of the Year

Sally A. Hasenfratz – Construction Law

Fred A. Leibrock – Litigation – ERISA

J. Mark Lovelace – Business Organizations (including LLCs and Partnerships)

Jim A. Roth – Government Relations Practice

The Lawyers of the Year join 33 other Phillips Murrah attorneys who were named to the 2018 Best Lawyers list.

Learn more about the Firm’s accolades on the Firm and Attorney Recognition page.

Firm selects August Employee of the Month

Deann Aderholt

DeAnn Aderholt, Legal Assistant, is Phillips Murrah’s Employees of the Month for August 2017.

“It’s a great honor and a wonderful surprise for my peers to recognize me and my effort,” she said. “I’m so thankful for my job here at Phillips Murrah and my work family that’s come along with it!

“My co-workers and my bosses are wonderful.  I couldn’t ask for a better place to spend my Mondays through Fridays!

The Employee of the Month is selected anonymously by Phillips Murrah staff on merits of teamwork and overall contributions to the Firm.

“DeAnn is that perfect team member as she always works hard and also has the strength of character to suggest a better way for all of us,” Director Jim A. Roth said. “She’s great and I’m lucky to work with her everyday.”


Phillips Murrah has been recognized as an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/WorkplaceDynamics two years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence. Each Employee of the Month is chosen by a monthly survey of peers.

Phillips Murrah announces 37 attorneys named to 2018 Best Lawyers list

Phillips Murrah is proud to announce that 37 of our attorneys have been named to The Best Lawyers in America© 2018 list in Oklahoma City.

The Best Lawyers in America 2018

Jennifer Ivester Berry – Commercial Transactions / UCC Law; Real Estate Law

Douglas A. Branch – Securities / Capital Markets Law; Venture Capital Law

Elizabeth K. Brown – Litigation – Trusts and Estates; Litigation and Controversy – Tax; Tax Law; Trusts and Estates

Michael D. Carter – Workers’ Compensation Law – Employers

Rodney L. Cook – Insurance Law

Bobby Dolatabadi – Corporate Law; Mergers and Acquisitions Law

Jason A. Dunn – Commercial Litigation

Joshua L. Edwards – Real Estate Law

Marc Edwards – Administrative / Regulatory Law; Commercial Litigation; Government Relations Practice

Nicholle Jones Edwards – Family Law

Shannon K. Emmons – Commercial Litigation; Employment Law – Management; Employment Law – Individuals

Juston R. Givens – Commercial Litigation

Sally A. Hasenfratz – Commercial Transactions / UCC Law; Construction Law; Land Use and Zoning Law; Real Estate Law

Terry L. Hawkins – Public Finance Law

Heather L. Hintz – Commercial Litigation

Timothy D. Kline – Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights / Insolvency and Reorganization Law; Commercial Transactions / UCC Law; Litigation – Bankruptcy

Fred A. Leibrock – Commercial Litigation; Insurance Law; Litigation – Antitrust; Litigation – ERISA; Litigation – Real Estate

Candace Williams Lisle – Commercial Litigation

Mark Lovelace – Banking and Finance Law; Business Organizations (including LLCs and Partnerships); Commercial Transactions / UCC Law

Melvin R. McVay, Jr. – Banking and Finance Law; Commercial Litigation; Litigation – Banking and Finance; Litigation – Bankruptcy; Litigation – Real Estate

Andrew S. Mildren – Administrative / Regulatory Law; Government Relations Practice

Jennifer L. Miller – Commercial Litigation

Cindy H. Murray – Real Estate Law

Robert O. O’Bannon – Business Organizations (including LLCs and Partnerships); Tax Law

Martin G. Ozinga – Commercial Litigation

Donald A. Pape – Banking and Finance Law

Michael R. Perri – Commercial Litigation; Energy Law; Natural Resources Law; Oil and Gas Law

William S. Price – Government Relations Practice

Dawn M. Rahme – Commercial Transactions / UCC Law; Litigation and Controversy – Tax; Tax Law; Trusts and Estates

Mary Holloway Richard – Health Care Law

Jim A. Roth – Energy Law; Energy Regulatory Law; Environmental Law; Government Relations Practice; Natural Resources Law

G. Calvin Sharpe – Medical Malpractice Law – Defendants; Personal Injury Litigation – Defendants

Robert N. Sheets – Commercial Litigation; Litigation – Land Use and Zoning; Litigation – Real Estate

Ellen K. Spiropoulos – Corporate Law

Lyndon W. Whitmire – Commercial Litigation; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants

Thomas G. Wolfe – Bet-the-Company Litigation; Commercial Litigation; Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions – Defendants; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants

Raymond E. Zschiesche – Commercial Litigation; Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions – Defendants; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants