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OCU Law names Ybarra 2019 Outstanding Young Alumna

Monica Ybarra Web

Monica Y. Ybarra is a litigation attorney whose practice focuses on representing individuals and companies in wide range of commercial litigation matters. She also practices in the area of family law, including litigation, custody issues and valuation issues.

Monica Y. Ybarra, Family Law attorney and Oklahoma City University School of Law Class of 2014 alumna, will be honored as Outstanding Young Alumna at the OCU Law Awards Dinner.

“These awards were created in the late 1990s to honor individuals, alumni and non-alumni, in the legal community who have exemplified themselves as champions of the legal profession, established themselves as a community advocate, and supported the endeavors of OCU Law,” said Ally Rodriguez, Director of Alumni Relations at OCU Law. “To be a recipient of an award demonstrates their commitment to excellence in their career and we hope this shines a light on their good works.”

The 2019 OCU Law Awards Dinner will be hosted at 6 PM on April 6 at OCU School of Law.

“Working with Monica, both as a Phillips Murrah team member and now in our mutual roles for our alma mater OCU School of Law, is a real gift,” said Jim Roth, Phillips Murrah Director and OCU Law Dean. “Monica wonderfully embodies the exceptional brain and heart you want in a colleague, a leader and a friend.”

This year’s awards are especially important as they signify the first major event of the OCU Law Alumni Association after being re-established in the fall of 2018 under the direction of Dean Jim Roth, she said.

“As a classmate of Monica’s and a member of the OCU Law Class of 2014, it is an honor to be able to work with her as the Chair of the OCU Law Alumni Association,” Rodriguez said. “Monica brings an excitement to her work and motivates those around her.

“As the 2019 recipient of the Outstanding Young Alumna Award, Monica has exemplified significant achievements in the practice of law since graduation, and is a wonderful representation of the hard work and servant leadership mentality that OCU Law instills.”

Ybarra joined the university’s Alumni Association in September 2018 to oversee development and progress of the organization and was elected Chair by the Board of Directors soon after.

“Dean Roth’s vision to reestablish the OCU Law Alumni Association was one of his top priorities upon assuming his role as the new Dean,” Ybarra said. “He brought together a group of interested alums to serve on the Board of Directors and they elected me as Chair at our inaugural meeting.

“So, I’ve hit the ground running in that role since day one.”

This first year has been focused on getting the word out about the Alumni Association, building partnerships with community businesses for the rewards program, setting goals and bringing the Association’s vision into focus, she said.

“OCU Law has produced some very dynamic leaders and so many of our alums are doing great things all over the world, so it is incredibly humbling to receive this award,” Ybarra said. “I am overwhelmed with gratitude to be recognized in this way.

“I hope that my role and involvement with OCU Law will continue to evolve to meet the needs of the law school. I enjoy helping with local and national recruiting, and certainly enjoy contributing to the law school experience of OCU Law students in any way that I can.”

To learn more about OCU Law and the Alumni Association, click here.

Director Jim Roth launches OCU Law alumni association

Jim Roth, Phillips Murrah Director and Oklahoma City University School of Law Dean, announces the revival of OCU Law's Alumni association at a meeting in early September.

Jim Roth, Phillips Murrah Director and Oklahoma City University School of Law Dean, announces the revival of OCU Law’s Alumni association at a meeting in early September.

Jim Roth, Phillips Murrah Director and Oklahoma City University School of Law Dean, announced the reestablishment of OCU Law’s Alumni Association in September.

“The law is a service profession, and here at OCU Law, we are a service-oriented school,” Roth said. “As an alumnus of the school, I have always admired that OCU is committed to helping create lawyers with a solemn responsibility for upholding the rule of law and for ‘doing good’ in the broader community.”

With more than 7,000 OCU Law alumni invited to join the revamped Association, Roth comprised a Board of Directors of OCU Law alumni, including Phillips Murrah attorneys Monica Y. Ybarra and Martin J. Lopez III, to oversee development and progress. Upon announcement, the Board of Directors voted to elect Ybarra as the first Chair of the association.

“This is an exciting time for OCU Law, and there’s no better way to rally our alums and get everyone plugged in to that energy than by resurrecting the OCU Law Alumni Association,” Ybarra said. “I’m looking forward to leading the Board of Directors as we fashion an association that will represent the interests of our vast alumni network, provide meaningful services to alums, students, and community partners, and be a channel through which alums can support the law school.”

The association is in the planning stages for the coming year, and the Board will be holding a launch event in November to kick off the association, said Ally Rodriguez, Director of Alumni Relations.

To learn more about OCU Law’s Alumni association, visit their website here.

 

Phillips Murrah welcomes two new attorneys to legal roster

Travis Harrison, Jim Roth, and Martin Lopez III

OCU Law Dean and Phillips Murrah Director Jim Roth stands between OCU Alums and new attorneys Travis E. Harrison and Martin J. Lopez III as they celebrate passing the bar exam.

Phillips Murrah is proud to welcome Martin J. Lopez III and Travis E. Harrison to our Firm.

Phillips Murrah welcomed Martin to the Firm’s Litigation Practice Group as an associate attorney where he represents individuals and both privately-held and public companies in a wide range of civil litigation matters.

Martin attended the Oklahoma City University School of Law where he served as class president, also serving as the Student Bar Association President his third and final year. He was also a member of the Oklahoma City University Law Review. Additionally, Martin had the opportunity to work alongside university president Robert H. Henry, serving as his legal research assistant for two years.

While pursuing his law degree, Martin worked as a judicial intern for the Honorable Timothy D. DeGiusti of the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma as well as for Justice Noma D. Gurich of the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Born and raised in Oklahoma City, Martin currently lives there with his wife and puppy. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with friends and family, watching Sooner sporting events, traveling, and fly fishing.

Travis has joined Phillips Murrah’s Transactional Practice Group as an associate attorney where he represents individuals and businesses in a broad range of transactional matters.

Travis graduated cum laude from Oklahoma City University School of Law where he earned the CALI Award of Excellence, which is awarded to the student with the highest grade in the courses as determined by the professor for five of his courses (Contracts II, Legal Research and Writing II, Constitutional Law I, Oil and Gas Law, and Commercial Paper). He was also a member of the Oklahoma City University Law Review. While serving as a member of the Law Review, he authored a Note titled Judicial Discretion on Outcome-Determinative Legislation After Bank Markazi v. Peterson, which was published in 2018.

Travis was born and raised in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where he currently resides. He enjoys traveling, reading, attending sporting events, and spending time with family and friends.

Roth: An open letter of thanks

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on June 4, 2018.


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

Roth: An open letter of thanks

Occasionally in life our journeys come full circle in a way that allows for reflection and gratitude, such as this, my last recurring column in this newspaper.

As a 13-year-old I was a paper boy for my hometown’s Wednesday and Friday Johnson County Sun newspaper. I would come home from school, find the large bundles on my doorstep, set about folding them and placing them inside the large canvas side bag and ride my bike while throwing the papers onto the lawns of the subscribing homeowners, often until dusk. In the rain the papers got a plastic bag, otherwise green rubber bands bound the tri-folded news. And then once a month I would walk the neighborhood knocking doors to collect the $2 per subscriber. I much preferred the time on my bike rather than the time chasing money. That hasn’t changed.

What has changed for me personally is that for the past nine years I have had the privilege to share a weekly column on the inside of a newspaper and a really good paper at that. The Journal Record is Oklahoma’s oldest business publication and since 1903 scores of hardworking reporters, designers, editors, printers and staff have consistently created an award-winning daily general business and legal publication. It’s been an honor to be an occasional columnist among those hard-working folks.

What has changed for the industry since 1903 is monumental. Gone are the Norman Rockwell-esque newspaper routes across America, replaced in part by online subscribers and clicks to drive readers’ interest and revenue. Color, font size, specialty sections and even the size of headlines compared to the size of news stories have all changed. But one thing hopefully has remained true: Americans need real and accurate news to not only sustain, but to improve, the greatest experiment in human governance, this American adventure of ours. And we need to actually read it for it to matter.

Joseph Pulitzer famously said: “What a newspaper needs in its news, in its headlines, and on its editorial page is terseness, humor, descriptive power, satire, originality, good literary style, clever condensation and accuracy, accuracy, accuracy!” And although he is best known for the Pulitzer Prizes created from his endowment of Columbia University, he is less known, ironically, for the use of “yellow journalism” (along with his chief rival William Randolph Hearst) to appeal to broader masses through lesser researched, or less accurate “news.”

Today, my car radio presets for satellite news scroll through CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, CNBC and the BBC. When those five prove frustratingly weak, biased or more ads than substance, the sixth preset is the comedy station for a much-needed break from it all. But we can’t take too many breaks from it all, or the hot air and yellow journalism risk replacing the importance of accuracy, fair reporting, deep thinking and the power of sunshine for our society.

So Thank You. Thank you to you readers for your interest in this publication and the importance of good journalism from these full-time professionals at The Journal Record. Thank you to those of you in journalism and news today who actually strive to be accurate, who know being balanced is more than a slogan and it requires genuine effort, and to those of you working long hours to provide today’s 24/7 news appetite, but who know that no matter how late the story, the truth is always timely.

I am grateful for you. And I am grateful for the chance to have shared energy and environmental ideas and observations for Oklahoma and beyond these past years, in a publication that strives every day to deliver the truth. Thank you.

Jim Roth has been appointed to serve as the new dean of the Oklahoma City University School of Law beginning July 1, and as an alum of OCU Law, will be enjoying that life’s full-circle opportunity of service.

Roth: Reasons to stay ‘air aware’ in Oklahoma

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on May 21, 2018.


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

Roth: Reasons to stay ‘air aware’ in Oklahoma

Often Missouri is referred to as the Show Me State, yet we Oklahomans also typically like to see things ourselves to believe them. Yet, there are realities around us too opaque for the human eye, such as air quality and impacts to our health.

Thursday’s ozone warning, a second warning this month, was just such a reality reminding us of the rising temperatures and the growing dangerous levels of particulate matter that rise with warmer months in Oklahoma’s more urban areas. The Air Quality Index forecast, which prompted the warning, showed an AQI of 101, a level described as “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups.” The accompanying health message indicates that “active children and adults, and people with lung disease, such as asthma, should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors.”

Now before you rejoice that an ozone warning simply provides a great excuse to put off mowing your lawn, for many Oklahomans it’s a much more serious challenge to their day. But first, let’s understand what makes up the ozone levels and the accompanying dangers.

This amazing Earth of ours has both naturally occurring and human-made pollution, which together create air quality issues impacting human health. And while I recognize a few (a very few, mostly political scientists, not science scientists) outliers still refute the enormous scientific consensus that human activity leads to climate impacts and climate change, have you ever noticed that our ozone health warnings usually apply only to Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas, where humans congregate and commute, where factories churn out industrial output, where cars, homes and buildings emit pollutions by their very existence? But I digress.

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality does a great job monitoring the air quality across Oklahoma and providing advice and warnings to the public when conditions could be hazardous to our health. Bad air quality can affect everybody’s health and can be particularly harmful to fast-growing young children and aging seniors with reduced immune systems. It even has direct economic impacts through loss of working days and increased health care costs. It can also have harmful effects on sensitive vegetation and ecosystems.

And while we can make a marginal difference ourselves, the enormity of the situation really requires collective group efforts, which is why the Clean Air Act and related environmental regulations are designed to protect those vulnerable Oklahomans on days like Thursday. Ozone is one of six common air pollutants identified in the CAA, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calls these “criteria air pollutants” because their levels in our outdoor air need to be limited based upon health criteria for Americans.

Ground-level ozone is the primary component of smog and it forms when nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds chemically react with sunlight of hot, windless days. Bad ozone itself is not emitted directly into the air, but is created from that chemical reaction (from other polluting resources emissions) when in the presence of sunlight. These pollutants come from a variety of sources including electric power plants, cars and trucks, construction equipment, gas-powered engines of all kinds, industrial facilities and even your backyard charcoal grills.

Unhealthy levels of ozone can cause increased risk of respiratory infection, throat irritation, coughing, shortness of breath, aggravation of asthma and other respiratory diseases and can even add dangers to people with diabetes, emphysema and cardiovascular diseases. During higher level of ozone days, the risks and impacts are made worse by activity and exercise outside.

There are actions that each of us can take to alleviate the risk, reduce air pollution and protect our health. If interested, please check out AirNow at the EPA website for some great tips: airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=resources.whatyoucando.

Also, in Tulsa please consider INCOG’s site: www.incog.org/Environmental_Planning/environment_air_quality.html.

And in Oklahoma City, ACOG’s site: www.acogok.org/transportation-planning/air-quality/ozone-alert-days.

So in addition to being “weather aware” this time of year, it makes sense for us Oklahomans to be “air aware”
too, even if you can’t see the pollution with your own eyes. Trust me, your lungs and bodies know it’s there.

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.

Jim Roth chosen to lead Oklahoma City University School of Law as Dean

Jim A. Roth

Jim A. Roth

Jim Roth, Phillips Murrah Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group, was recently selected to become the Dean of the Oklahoma City University School of Law. He will assume his role on July 1.

“It is a huge honor to be able to serve my alma mater as its next Dean,” Jim said. “OCU Law School has given me so much, and being able to give back – especially at this level of commitment – is surreal and exciting.”

His role will include bringing his expertise and influence to the school in a variety of ways, including his natural ability to transcend typecasts associated with both the legal and academic professions. He noted that a goal is to help inspire future lawyers to place additional attention on the importance of preparedness and leadership in their profession, in their community and on the planet, all of which are quickly and constantly changing.

“The Dean today is not just the chief academic advisor and partner with the faculty,” Roth explained. “This role also requires excellence in admissions, success for student life and subsequently Bar passage, expanded opportunities for career placement, and work that connects Alumni and the broader community to improve the Law School’s impact.”

Jim Roth OCU Law commencement photo

Courtesy of OCU Law

Jim joined Phillips Murrah almost a decade ago and will continue to be an important part of our PM family. Having served as Chair of Phillips Murrah’s Clean Energy Practice Group, and through his thought leadership and advocacy, he has been a key component in helping the renewable energy industry flourish in Oklahoma. “I love the work, and the way we work, at Phillips Murrah and remain committed to our clients’ best interests forever.”

Prior to joining the Firm, Jim served as an Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner from 2007-2009 and was elected District 1 Oklahoma County Commissioner from 2003-2007. This experience, along with his presence and influence in Oklahoma in numerous areas of community leadership and advocacy, was a recipe for success as a finalist candidate brought forward initially by the OCU Search Committee, then voted on by the law school faculty, and finally appointed by retiring OCU President Robert Henry and his replacement, President-Designate Martha Burger.

The Law Dean selection process was rigorous, according to press statement released by Oklahoma City University on Friday, May 11.

“Jim’s appointment follows a thorough national search process, and his selection from the robust pool of applicants is a testament to his strong leadership skills and his vision to grow OCU Law,” President Henry stated in the release.

For further details about Jim’s background and legal practice, visit phillipsmurrah.com/jim-roth

Roth: Time for a long-overdue legislative break

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on May 14, 2018.


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

Roth: Time for a long-overdue legislative break

Oklahoma’s Senate, and later, state House, adjourned sine die May 4, earlier than planned, and not without objection up to the bitter end.

This legislative session was one for the record books, though, to many, not in a positive way. Elected leaders began with a $425 million budget deficit, following multiple years of shrinking revenue and deficits.

But what felt different this year, besides the two special sessions that seemingly went off without a break after last May’s sine die, was the level of engagement by droves of individual constituents and even groups of newly formed advocates. That said, the greatest difference this session has to be that most state agencies received budget increases for the first time in more than a decade, to address many core services.

Our state’s energy industry was among those that had a tempestuous session, which featured a roller coaster of potential tax increases and threats of eliminated incentives, the details of which changed not by the day, but the hour.

Talk of incentives will likely always be a mood killer at a social engagement, as you either believe them to be an effective tool or despise them. My experience places me in the former camp most of the time. Incentives are economic development tools that, if used properly, can boost a nascent industry and provide real benefit to targeted area of industry or even a boost to a particular area of the state.

Grass-roots efforts like the teacher walkout, the Step Up initiative(s) and Restore Oklahoma’s ballot initiative petition to restore the state’s gross production tax to its historic 7-percent rate made hot topics of energy taxes and incentives among those Oklahomans who did not previously have reason to pay them much attention. Now, these issues are part of everyday conversation across the state and an informed electorate is always a good thing.

So how did it all close? The GPT incentive rate for the first 36 months of most wells’ production increased from 2 to 5 percent, then it moves to its typical rate of 7 percent.

These changes garnered mixed reaction from industry leaders, many of whom had previously supported an increase to 4 percent last October. Leaders in the wind industry had worked with lawmakers in past sessions to eliminate incentives in 2016 and 2017, although much debate in 2018 centered around the legacy cost of past tax credits.

One measure that failed to get enough votes was an effort to eliminate the refundability of those projects already in place, costing each wind project millions of dollars. The passage of this measure would have harmed investors, landowners and rural schools that all rely on royalties and local property taxes, as well as potentially send projects into default with lenders. The Senate saw this as ruinous to Oklahoma’s business reputation and rejected the House’s efforts here.

As I’ve said countless times, Oklahoma should be eagerly but shrewdly investing in all our state’s energy offerings, new and old, rather than attacking one or more forms of energy or industry. Oklahoma’s wind, oil, and natural gas are abundant, and so is our solar potential. Let’s hope the roller coaster that was this session does not permanently damage our state’s business reputation. We still need to attract out-of-state investment to lift all boats here in Oklahoma.

We should all find ways to work together for the benefit of our entire state throughout the year. Energy wars make the whole state look risky, whether in session or not. But for now Oklahomans, let’s enjoy a long-overdue break.

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.

Roth: Intuitive energy trend?

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on May 7, 2018.


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

Roth: Intuitive energy trend?

A good strategic partnership is even better when it can help the environment and a company’s bottom line. Intuit, known best for software programs TurboTax and QuickBooks, has partnered with Just Energy, a Texas retail energy company, on an exciting and unique renewable energy affinity program, unveiled just before Earth Day.

Under the partnership, Intuit plans to share its corporate wind power procurement in Texas with commercial and residential customers, providing renewable energy at discounted prices. This innovative program was created with assistance from Renewable Power Direct, a national green energy marketer.

Intuit’s affinity program, Purely Green, features three-year contracts for residential service offered in the Dallas-Fort Worth area at 9.3 cents per kilowatt-hour, a rate that appears to be lower than much of the brown power offers in the market at this time. This partnership leverages the environmental benefits but also offers the collective buying power to make green energy more affordable for all.

Google, Target, Wal-Mart, and General Motors are known for buying clean energy. Right here in our state, the Google data center buys its power from Oklahoma wind farms and the Grand River Dam Authority’s hydropower. While some of these corporations have internal commitments to reduce environmental impacts, for others, it’s just good business. Some companies simply buy the clean power for its lower cost. As GM’s global manager of renewable energy said last year, “it’s been primarily all driven off economics.”

The lower energy bills Intuit and other trailblazing companies enjoy can be attributed to several causes. Renewable technology hard costs continue to plummet, federal and state incentives have contributed to overall savings, and power purchase agreements provide the ability to negotiate terms deemed fair by those contracting, as well as offer a stable, reliable price for the purchaser and the buyer over an extended period of time.

As here, economies of scale allow the Intuit program to be cheaper for many. The company’s approach to sharing its power with others may be the first of its kind. Renewable Power Direct CEO Eric Alam expects “other large companies that buy wind and solar energy to begin exploring how best to share and leverage their green energy choices for customers and employees. This could significantly boost future demand for renewable energy and greatly expand the climate benefits of corporate green power programs.”

Here’s hoping others follow suit to save money and Mother Earth, while also helping to develop our region’s clean energy options.

(Disclosure: Jim Roth currently serves on the board of directors of the American Clean Skies Foundation, an advocacy organization in Washington, D.C., focused on American natural gas and clean energies, which was founded by the late Aubrey McClendon and maintains an interest in Renewable Power Direct.)

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.

Roth: Time to pay close attention to our energy future

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on April 30, 2018.


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

Roth: Time to pay close attention to our energy future

Last week, I discussed Oklahoma and U.S. exports and economic development.

Electricity is one obvious requirement for all of that productivity. Farmers rely on it to pump water for crops, manufacturers and the industrial sector are one of the largest customers of utility companies, at the other end of the spectrum, you and I need it to charge our phones and make coffee in the morning to begin our own productive days.

When we consider how we obtain the electrons to enable this productivity, a natural next step is to contemplate the larger infrastructure that makes it possible.

Oklahoma is a member of the 14-state Southwest Power Pool. The SPP dispatches the least expensive energy first, and Oklahoma’s affordable, abundant wind and natural gas help keep prices low for the entire region, while providing a boost to our state’s exports.

As we plan for the future, one important consideration in the bulk power space is the health of the electric grid, which our utilities, with our financial assistance, are constantly repairing and upgrading. With Puerto Rico in mind, we are reminded it is an uphill battle, to say the least.

The 2017 American Society of Civil Engineers’ Infrastructure Report Card gave U.S. electric infrastructure a D+ due to its substantial age and congestion issues. Most of it was constructed in the 1950s and 1960s with a 10-year life expectancy. Today, erratic weather and severe storms, combined with much greater demand for electricity increase grid health concerns. Add to these the modern-day threat of cyberterrorism, which has become a real risk to the security of our grid system.

With all of this in mind, we would be well-served to pay close attention to our energy future, both in terms of cost and security. After all, what good is investing millions of dollars into infrastructure that can be shut down remotely from a foreign country?

Discussions of grid reliability are ubiquitous lately. Sen. Mark Warner, vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, recently discussed the risks and consequences of an attack on the power grid. The following is a paraphrase, but his comments went something like, “we may be investing in the best planes, tanks, and guns, when much of the conflict in the 21st century will be in the realm of misinformation, disinformation, and cyberwarfare; and I don’t think we’re ready.”

Just this month, commissioners of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission referred to attacks on the grid as “constant” and of great concern.

As their costs continue to fall, distributed generation and smart grids are looking more promising and practical than ever before. Technology is rapidly changing. Consider when businesses each maintained huge in-house servers. The now outmoded technology is slower, more expensive to repair, and less reliable than cloud storage.

So, what is the future of the power grid? It is too early to know, but my guess is citizens will continue to demand the safest, cleanest, cheapest, and most reliable forms of power. A recent case-in-point: The United Kingdom just went 55 hours without burning coal and now has more offshore wind than any other country.

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.

Roth: Oklahoma and the future for exports

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on April 23, 2018.


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

Roth: Oklahoma and the future for exports

The U.S. exports both goods and services with major categories in the former including food, beverage, and feed. Service exports exceed goods exports, and include things like travel and transportation, financial and insurance services, and intellectual property.

Our country’s largest goods export was soybeans, while the largest services export was in the travel and transportation sectors. The service sector is said to employ five times more people than those making goods.

Economists caution that the potential trade war could hit Midwestern states the hardest, especially states that produce soybeans, corn, or grains. The protectionism rationale in favor of the steel and aluminum tariffs is already said to be counterproductive by some analysts and commentators. One thing is for sure, it has many people talking about international trade and tariffs, and locally, our state’s own exports are being discussed.

Oklahoma exported more than $5 billion worth of goods and services last year. The state’s largest category was in civilian aircraft, engines, and parts, followed by automatic data processing storage units. Parts of pumps for liquids, cotton, and swine are next on the list. In addition to these goods, Oklahoma has decades of experience exporting fuel, like natural gas, through our system of pipelines.

In 1931, construction of a high-pressure pipeline from Oklahoma’s Panhandle to the Chicago area was completed, enabling our state to market this resource far from where it was released. Typically, more than one-fourth of Oklahoma’s natural gas gross withdrawals are consumed within the state.

Like Oklahoma’s aircraft parts, cotton, swine, natural gas, and crude oil, we are now developing more electricity through wind than our state’s load requires. Consequently, just like our oil and natural gas, we will continue to increase our export of wind electricity, although a great majority of it is consumed within our state. But, unlike our oil and natural gas resources, electricity generated from Oklahoma’s wind is a packaged, delivered energy. In other words, it is ready to go as soon as it is generated. Plus, as we were reminded the last week or so, it is abundant.

The dispatch of electricity, like all technological advancements, is evolving. Beginning in the 1950s we constructed interstate highways, and now we have a giant grid of surface transportation.

Similarly, electricity on the wires grid is evolving from local generation and consumption to regional power grids like the Southwest Power Pool, of which Oklahoma is a member. Soon we should be unlocking the technology to send Oklahoma electrons to places like Chicago and beyond, just like we do our natural gas.

On the other hand, we are also seeing more people desire off-grid power for a number of different reasons to discuss another day. It is an exciting and unpredictable future for goods and services and the impacts of consuming both in new ways.

One last thought on exports: Unfortunately, Oklahoma has years of experience exporting another valuable Oklahoma resource, talented young brains. Let’s hope we can figure out how to stop that trend by attracting a growing and vibrant, well-educated economy where innovation and investment unleash our best potential. That’s the first trade war we should fight: investing in our people, educating their children and growing their full potential.

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.

Roth: The latest buzzzz on pollinators

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on April 9, 2018.


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

Roth: The latest buzzzz on pollinators

Nothing says, “April Fool’s” like a high of 40 degrees the day after it was 72. It was a rather timely coincidence since by last column featured the difficult work of climatologists in determining just what the crazy weather might do next. It isn’t just humans that the changing weather affects; climate change impacts bees and butterflies, crops, streams and lakes, bird migration, and ultimately, entire ecosystems.

The monarchs are just getting to Oklahoma on their 2,000-plus mile spring journey. These amazing insects take cues from the environment and cannot survive a long, cold winter, so climate change is especially harmful for them. If you are looking for a way to attract them to your yard, they rely on milkweed as their sole host plant. Of course, reducing or eliminating your use of pesticides and herbicides is important, too.

Honey bees have gotten more attention in the past decade or more, as does anything we are at risk of losing. While there are many possible reasons for this phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder, the fact is, we lost 10 million beehives between 2007 to 2013, which is twice as many as normal. Thanks to awareness and action, great efforts are in place to save these pollinators, whose work our very food web relies upon.

Losing bees and butterflies has economic impacts on the agricultural industry since many crops, worldwide, are pollinated by Western honey bees. Around one-third of the food we consume relies upon pollinators like butterflies and bees. Dramatic weather can lower the quantity and quality of crops in an area due to drought, heat waves, and heavy rainfall. Oklahoma is an agriculture state so we know firsthand how distressing and unproductive a drought followed by a gully-washer can be.

So what can we do? We can focus on what we know and stay tuned to what scientists continue to discover. We know that climate change’s effect on agriculture is felt the strongest in the world’s poorest countries, so we can support efforts to teach these populations farming techniques that support a more stable food supply.

We know pesticides can be especially devastating to water sources, with the algal blooms in Lake Erie as one disturbing example; so we can cease or minimize our use of pesticides and herbicides, or use natural versions. We can opt for native grasses, flowers, and plants, which will both help our pollinators and require less water to survive. We can purchase local food from our co-ops and farms. There are tons of great resources online to learn more about each of these fascinating topics.

For us Oklahomans interested in helping, please check out a great resource provided by the Tulsa Zoo and the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, in Poteau, Oklahoma, and their “Native Plants for Native Pollinators in Oklahoma” guide.

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.

Roth: A quote to remember this spring

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on April 2, 2018.


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

Roth: A quote to remember this spring

It is officially spring. At least here in the Northern Hemisphere. In Oklahoma we’ve lost an hour of sleep but some of us enjoy the earlier sunrise and later sunset the longer days offer.

We Oklahomans know that with spring come tornado season and our obsessive assessment of the weather. Lucky for us, we have the National Weather Center in Norman, with some of the foremost scientists in the field doing their best to evaluate our crazy weather and warn us when necessary. The center is a sub-organization of the National Weather Service, a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Climate Prediction Center, also a part of NWS, forecasts future weather conditions relative to what is normal, as opposed to daily weather forecasts that aim to predict things like high and low temperatures and rainfall potential. Each year in March, the Climate Prediction Center releases its Spring Outlook report. This year, the report predicts moderate flooding, warmer-than normal temperatures, and persistent drought that will affect more than one-fourth of the country from California through Oklahoma and the Great Plains.

Another timely release for the erratic weather season was a new study that links warming Arctic temps to colder weather, again. The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications. Peer review is one indicator of reliable research. A peer-reviewed publication requires the author to offer strong evidence for the conclusions set forth. Other scientists in that field read the work and provide feedback as to whether they regard it as sufficiently high quality to publish. The process is somewhat analogous to a Daubert hearing for legal evidence. These methodologies are not perfect, but they provide an opportunity for scrutiny, and scrutiny can reveal the weakness in an idea, thus allowing it to be improved or rejected.

Increasingly, climate-related science is subject to intense scrutiny, at times more Draconian than Daubert. Despite this, scientists persevere, and this study reveals results similar to those that have preceded it in earlier studies. Generally, that climate change is not fake news; specifically, this study revealed a nexus between warming temperatures in the Arctic and an increase in severe winter weather in the eastern U.S., and did so more extensively than previous studies. While the scientists duke this out, one concept that has been continually proven is that greenhouse gases are warming the planet, and the Arctic is warming more quickly than other locations. Since science and our ability to understand the things around us is always improving, I pose, at the very least, that we remain open-minded to repeatedly demonstrated research.

The author Robert Pirsig is quoted as saying something really provocative about dogma. “You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it’s going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it’s always because their dogmas are in doubt.”

In other words, loud people on the subject of climate change are probably less secure about their beliefs (and the evidence to support it) than those that more quietly rely on established, peer-tested science. So as the raucous Oklahoma spring season begins, especially as Easter coincides with the change between March and April, it might be a good time to read up on the Climate Prediction Center’s recent study and then see for yourself what climate unfolds.

Oh, and one more favorite quote to remember: Science doesn’t care if we believe it or not, it just is.

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.

Roth: The Russians can’t take your microgrid

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on March 26, 2018.


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

Roth: The Russians can’t take your microgrid

On the list of benefits to increasing our use of renewable energy, safety is always one of them. Distributed generation, in particular, is more secure than our current energy infrastructure, and apparently Russia is out to prove it.

The situation we now face has been building. You might remember late last year when it was revealed that a National Security Agency contractor moved highly classified files to his home computer. The files detailed how the NSA both protects against cyberattacks and infiltrates the networks of others. Russian hackers were identified as locating these files through popular antivirus software the contractor used.

The software was manufactured by Kaspersky Lab, a Moscow-based company whose antivirus software was used by the U.S. government until legislation was passed banning its use due to national security concerns. The company repeatedly denied its involvement in cyber-espionage or that it was in any way tied to or influenced by any government. These efforts escalated and Russian hackers began attacking networks of smaller commercial companies that were deemed weaker and more vulnerable. They were practicing, so to speak, to prepare for the real aim: our energy systems, including the electricity grid.

Fast-forward to the latest development, in which Russian hackers had infiltrated U.S. systems, including energy, nuclear, water utilities, and other sectors. The attackers had acquired the ability to shut off electricity, they just had not acted on it yet. Perhaps Russians rightly realize that Americans won’t stand for having their lights turned off by a foreign adversary. Tinkering with our elections may be tolerable for some, but most won’t tolerate having their lives jeopardized with energy disruptions.

It isn’t only energy networks that need to be on high alert against cybersecurity – most critical infrastructure is managed online. So what are we to do? One answer comes through distributed generation. Some cities have been working on microgrids that improve local grid resiliency. Our military is developing solar-based microgrids to ensure energy security and continued operation during emergencies and prolonged outages.

Solar, in particular, is more cost-effective than the diesel-powered generators commonly used during power outages. Solar energy also reduces the need to rely upon the supply chain for fuel delivery. These emergency preparedness efforts are a no-brainer for critical facilities like military, hospitals, and all levels of government. And, if states would allow for third-party investment and leasing in distributed generation, the number of partnerships and benefits quickly multiply.

Cybersecurity is a rapidly developing area of the law and our state is fortunate to have the Judge Alfred P. Murrah Center for Homeland Security Law and Policy at Oklahoma City University’s School of Law, right here in Oklahoma City. The Murrah Center is preparing the vital group of future lawyers with its focus on domestic terrorism prevention, domestic security insight, legal analysis, and counterterrorism.

The center’s annual event, the National Summit on Homeland Security Law, takes place April 19 at OCU Law and provides a unique opportunity that brings together experts in the field and provides information that is applicable to most everyone. Tickets to the summit are available to the public; more info is forthcoming and can be found on the school’s website, assuming your computer still has access to electricity, at law.okcu.edu.

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.

Roth: Tariffs affecting American 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 March 19, 2018.


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

Tariffs affecting American energy?

The threat of President Trump’s tariffs have again managed to bring together groups sometimes at odds with one another, when they attempted to dissuade the administration from imposing new tariffs.

Everyone from the American Petroleum Institute to the American Wind Energy Association and Solar Energy Industries Association, to congressional Republicans, to the broader stock market had negative reactions to the news of a 25-percent tariff on most steel imports and a 10-percent tariff on most aluminum.

Those on one end of that spectrum say the move could set off a trade war, while the other end poses that at the very least the result of tariffs could contradict the stated goals of an “America First” economic plan. World leaders everywhere in between denounce the move as damaging to international trade and nonconforming with World Trade Organization rules. We’ll see what they do.

The implications of the tariffs could be vast, as higher prices on steel and aluminum pose a real threat to many American industries, where those materials are significant inputs, and whose markets rely on low prices from imported materials.

The tariffs could have an unintended detrimental effect on American jobs for industries such as cars and energy. It is the same concept with tariffs on solar cells and modules. True, solar tariffs are sure to make panels from China and elsewhere more expensive to import, but the price increase on equipment, and thus entire projects, could scare off potential solar customers. Fewer solar customers lead to lower demand; lower demand means less solar jobs. With tariffs on steel and aluminum, the ripple effects are even more wide-reaching.

As they say, “all roads lead to Rome.” While there are other means to this end, Trump opts to penalize imports in an attempt to protect or prop up industries at home. But the tariffs won’t affect everyone – an exemption for Canada and Mexico has been discussed if those countries are willing to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump has been a frank and ardent opponent of the agreement. There is also a potential carve-out for U.S. parties who can demonstrate a demand for steel and aluminum that cannot be met domestically. Many folks across the energy industry want in on this exemption for obvious reasons, but the terms of the carve-out have yet to materialize.

Will the tariffs produce stronger steel and aluminum industries here at home, or will they cause trade wars worldwide? As per usual, we’ll have to wait and see, but for now most observers and energy industry participants suggest the effects will inflate their prices only nominally.

For now, we have the European Commission president’s pledge to slap tariffs on iconic U.S. exports, many from states described as Trump country, such as Midwestern wheat, Kentucky bourbon, blue jeans, and Harleys. Stay tuned.

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.

Roth: Plugging into the charging infrastructure market

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on March 12, 2018.


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

Plugging into the charging infrastructure market

We know electric vehicle sales are charging ahead, but where do we charge them? Charging is no problem if you have a driveway and an outdoor electric outlet, or live in California, where there are about 12,000 charging stations (compare this to Germany, which currently has the same). But what about those who live in multifamily units or park on the street?

Lucky for us, there are plenty of smart, motivated people working on this opportunity. I call it an opportunity because if implemented properly, the accessibility of electric vehicle charging won’t amount to a challenge. Moreover, the charging infrastructure market is projected to grow to about $20 billion in the next five years.

For clarification, because the terminology varies, a charging pile is a slower, single station using alternate current level 1 and AC level 2 charging you might find in a parking lot or other public place where a vehicle would be charged for an extended time. A charging station is more like a gas station with multiple, higher-speed, usually direct current chargers. “Charging station” is commonly used for either of those examples.

In Oklahoma, charging stations are increasingly popping up around us. The City Center East parking garage in downtown Oklahoma City just installed new stations, and solar-powered EV charging projects have recently come online by Oklahoma-based companies Delta Energy and Design in and around OKC, and Francis Solar in and around Tulsa.

Globally, new ideas continue to develop with regard to EV charging. A German telecommunications company just announced plans to more than double the country’s number of charging stations by converting its distribution boxes to standard and fast-charging stations by 2020. In England and elsewhere, lampposts have been retrofitted for electric vehicle charging points. Last year China announced it would build 167,000 charging stations. This is a logical next step there since leaders plan an eventual outright ban on fossil fuel vehicles and have already made it more difficult to build them. India, the world’s third-largest oil importer, has plans to sell only electric cars by 2030. It, too, has begun to invest heavily in charging infrastructure.

Once more of us are driving EVs and the infrastructure is in place, the focus will turn to how quickly cars can be charged. India’s former minister of new and renewable energy has advocated for swapping of batteries at charging stations, rather than recharging, to reduce time at the pump. If that comes to fruition, I suppose we could call it a trading post?

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.

Roth: Electric vehicle market charging ahead

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on March 5, 2018.


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

Electric vehicle market charging ahead

Two million and counting. This was the title of the 2017 Electric Vehicle Outlook report by the International Energy Agency.

The market for electric vehicles continues to gain ground, although relatively speaking, it remains a small percentage of all U.S. auto sales. Still, every major car manufacturer has electrification plans, meaning their vehicles will operate using some amount of electric power.

Certain companies like Volvo are even vowing to cease building solely internal combustion engine vehicles. That is, the company does and will continue building hybrids, which by definition contain both gas and electric components. But like its competitors, Volvo will shift focus to all-electric vehicles, as sales for hybrids have declined, and EVs have become more ecological and economical.

The industry has evolved from the Prius-style gasoline-electric hybrid, to plug-in hybrids, to fully electric vehicles, sometimes called battery electric vehicles, and hydrogen cell vehicles. Toyota introduced the Prius to the U.S. in 2001 and still holds about 80 percent of the hybrid market.

If current trends continue, many predict this gasoline-electric-style hybrid will be obsolete before the combustion engine. Several causes support this notion. The shale revolution resulted in an influx of American oil and gas. An abundance of oil has made gas prices lower than 10 years ago when they peaked at $4.11 and the U.S. was primarily an importer of oil. This means consumers are at least slightly less concerned about gas prices, making a hybrid less appealing.

Next, an abundance of natural gas helped stabilize electricity prices, and making it more financially feasible to use electricity to charge a vehicle. Plus, the technology continues improving – batteries hold a charge longer and recharge quicker than ever. So, depending on consumer predilection, be it to save money on gas, to save the environment, or, simply to own the latest automobile technology, choices will likely include a battery electric vehicle or a gas vehicle, or, eventually as more fueling infrastructure is built, a hydrogen cell vehicle.

The U.S. is not the only country with growth in this industry – last year China led the way in the number of electrified cars on the road. Such a boon for battery electric vehicles will become an opportunity for the electric power sector.

Unlike many developing countries that lack consistent electricity for even basic needs, in the U.S. we enjoy such reliable electric power sources that many of us can elect to recharge electric vehicles overnight while we sleep. Or perhaps even using the electricity harnessed during the day via our rooftop solar panels at our places of work. Either way, the trend helps one imagine a future where your car is a large battery with four wheels that is ebbing and flowing electrons into an energy market and you are paying or being paid as the case may be.

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.

Roth: Energy independence closer to reality

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on February 26, 2018.


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

Energy independence closer to reality

As American oil production surpasses 10 million barrels per day, the latest World Energy Outlook report from the International Energy Agency indicates the U.S. is poised to continue its record-breaking oil and gas production.

The report also predicts that by 2025, the U.S. could become the world’s largest exporter of LNG (we already export more natural gas than we import), and will begin to export more oil than we import, once thought unimaginable. The U.S. has not been a net exporter of oil since the 1950s, and following the 1973 oil crisis, was prohibited from exporting crude. The ban was intended to counteract future crises, and was lifted by the Obama administration in 2015.

Flashback to a previous World Energy Outlook report from 2012 when the IEA indicated the United States would overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil exporter by 2020 and become energy-independent 10 years later. That report also predicted that the U.S. would become a net exporter of crude oil around 2030. As recently as 2014, the U.S. was third behind Saudi Arabia and Russia in crude oil production.

We Oklahomans are familiar with the rest of the story, how technological advancement in drilling and fracking, or the shale renaissance, unlocked huge reserves of oil and gas and altered the energy landscape of Oklahoma and the world.

By 2016, the U.S. was exporting crude oil to nearly 30 countries. Last year, monthly exports exceeded 1 million barrels per day, but the U.S. still imports around 8 million BPD of crude oil, which is why the forecast of net exportation is really something.

The U.S. isn’t the only country reshaping its energy landscape. Saudi Arabia, through its Vision 2030 initiative to reduce its economy’s dependence on oil, is planning multifaceted changes to its energy industry this year. For now, Saudi has tentatively planned a 2018 initial public offering of its government-owned oil company Saudi Aramco. If projections are accurate, offering 5 percent of the company could raise up to $100 billion and would place the company’s valuation at or above $1.5 trillion. Saudi is also considering investments in U.S. shale interests, and as I discussed last week, is investing heavily in renewables. These possibly transformative steps within the Kingdom are occurring as American energy production and strength grows and Saudis grow nervous for their economy.

This month a supertanker full of American crude left the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, or LOOP, for the People’s Republic of China. This was the first time for an export of this size that did not require smaller ships to shuttle their multiple cargoes out to supertankers waiting in deeper waters. LOOP, the only deep-water port in the U.S., has been instrumental in offloading imported oil, and now its ability to handle these massive tankers will both lower the costs and simplify the logistics of oil exports.

IEA reported this month that America’s net crude oil imports fell by 1.6 million barrels per day to just under 5 million bpd, the lowest level since the IEA began keeping this data in 2001. And the export of American crude jumped to just above 2 million bpd, close to a record high of 2.1 million hit in October, and those numbers have pushed our country’s net imports to a new low level. The promise of energy independence, at least on a domestic production and domestic consumption comparison, is growing closer to reality than ever.

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.

Roth: Counterintuitive renewable energy progress

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on February 19, 2018.


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

Counterintuitive renewable energy progress

I have often said renewables are here to stay, in spite of some resistance from some corners of our economy.

Case in point, countries around the globe are investing in and developing renewable forms of energy in places that wouldn’t be that obvious. For instance, last year in the U.S., we installed more than 14.73 gigawatts of solar, while China installed more than twice that at 34.54 gigawatts.

While the technology for solar panels was created in the U.S., China’s embrace of the solar industry changed the economics. New research indicates that years of cheap Chinese solar panels dropped prices around the globe by 80 percent. China also dominates other industries the U.S. once led, currently surpassing us in the production of steel, automobiles, and cotton. China also leads the way in pollution as well as coal production at almost 4 billion short tons, compared to the United States’ 728 million short tons in 2016. It’s not all bad for the U.S. that China leads the way in solar; after all, the cheaper panels afforded the addition of hundreds of thousands of domestic solar installation jobs here in America.

But, there is more to this story. Renewable energy is being developed in other unexpected places.

In Saudi Arabia, the new crown prince and his energy minister are looking to diversify and grow the economy by maximizing the country’s vast sunlight. One example of this is a solar farm covering a massive parking lot at Saudi Aramco, the national oil company. For Saudi Arabia’s economy, oil has long been the kingpin – citizens get 50 percent of their electricity by burning oil.

But with new leadership (sometimes) comes new ideas, and the new goal is to install 41 gigawatts of solar by 2032. Questions about whether the plan will be implemented still remain. The benefits to the country include the price – with government-backing for projects, the energy will be cheaper than fossil fuels, and, with more citizens using renewables for their domestic energy needs, more Saudi oil is available for export.

These efforts won’t help China’s solar industry much; the bidding process requires the selected company to spend around 30 percent of total costs on domestic suppliers. A sort of “Arabia First” requirement.

Three other countries whose level of renewables might come as a bit of a surprise are Nicaragua, with plans to be powered by 90 percent renewables by 2020. Costa Rica, slightly more assertive than Nicaragua, aims to be completely carbon-neutral by 2021. And Uruguay, maybe the most impressive, is running on 95 percent renewables with only 10 years of effort, and all without subsidies or raising consumer costs.

These countries have geothermal, hydroelectric, solar, and wind – hey, not unlike Oklahoma and its own diverse resources. But Nicaragua and Costa Rica have two things our state does not: volcanoes, which provide for vast geothermal energy, and government leaders who support the development of renewable technologies.

While we won’t have volcanoes anytime soon, we could stand to have more support to develop the many energy blessings found in our state. A sort of “Oklahoma First” energy policy, if you will.

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.

Roth: Energy protectionism in the form of solar tariffs

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on February 12, 2018.


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

Energy protectionism in the form of solar tariffs

While this column was on hiatus, the president made his decision on the Section 201 International Trade case by, somewhat unsurprisingly, adding steep tariffs to solar cells and modules originating from China and several other countries. The tariff takes hold at 30 percent this year and will gradually decline to 15 percent in the fourth year.

During his tenure, Trump has been clear about his preference for coal over renewables, so he couldn’t likely squander this two birds, one stone opportunity to stick it to both the renewable energy industry and China. While it is true that cheap, imported panels have boosted the industry, huge investments, domestic job creation and low-cost clean energy accompanied that growth, which made for a complicated and contentious conflict.

As I’ve mentioned previously, many were troubled by the irony that Suniva and SolarWorld, the petition filers, asserted serious harm to the domestic solar industry, yet are foreign corporations, but both have headquarters in the U.S., which gave them standing to challenge the imports. Nonetheless, they prevailed over a massive response from the rest of the solar industry and others interested in trade practices.

One silver lining in the battle appeared when conservative groups ALEC and the Heritage Foundation came out against the tariffs. Their positions on the matter bolstered an already strong faction of those opposed to tariffs, and I am always optimistic when logic transcends politics. But, despite the efforts of the bipartisan opposition group, (not even a Sean Hannity commercial did the trick) the tariffs are the new normal for the solar industry.

But will the tariffs actually help American manufacturers ramp up, and what will those prices look like? Of course, this is yet to be seen. But those in the industry predict (and some have already seen) increases of 10-15 percent over total project costs. Those prices are obviously paid by American consumers. Prices increased upon the initial recommendations, and before Trump made a decision, as solar installers were stockpiling the affected equipment in preparation for what many knew would result.

Since tariffs are taxes, the end users are the ones who will eventually foot the bill. This decision has many, even supporters of the president, disappointed. Those in favor of a free market and especially those for free trade are calling the decision protectionist, while others are warning of a slippery slope not seen before in trade policy. The reason for the concern is that less than half of the petitions sent to the ITC have been granted any type of trade barrier, and since many believe this case lacked a definite injury to the industry, there are fears that other industries will file petitions with similar claims.

The great, hopeful fact that remains for America’s energy future, regardless of what this or any administration does to help or hinder it, is that Americans overwhelmingly want cleaner, renewable energy to power their lives. And as America further electrifies its future, Oklahoma’s sun and wind blessings should play a big role, so long as we don’t deny ourselves the future.

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.

Director Jim Roth to speak on 2018 Legislative Session forum panel

Jim A. Roth, Phillips Murrah

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

Director Jim Roth will participate in a panel during the First Week Forum, an event hosted by The Journal Record designed to inform attendees about hot topics and major issues facing the state and nation during the 2018 Legislative Session.

The First Week Forum will host sessions from 3 to 7 PM this Thursday at the Oklahoma City University School of Law.

Roth will be speaking during the Energy Panel alongside Mark Yates, Director of the Oklahoma Wind Coalition; Chad Warmington, President of Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association; and John Harper of American Electric Power who will be moderating.

“The Journal Record is bringing sunshine to the state capitol political sausage factory at an unprecedented time of budget woes and two concurrent legislative Sessions,” Roth said. “We will discuss the issues of the day and hope Oklahomans can gain information for their benefit going forward.”

Other panel topics include criminal justice reform, education and health care, and registration for the event is free.

Those interested can view a full list of speakers and panels here.

Roth: The high cost of climate volatility

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on February 5, 2018.


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

The high cost of climate volatility

Natural disasters cost the United States $306 billion in 2017, matching a previous record set in 2011.

Hearing this, we Oklahomans can recall that last year’s tornado season, which resulted in one death in our state, was comparatively tame, although that is hardly a term to describe a tornado season or a loss of life.

The costs from the 2017 figures are mostly property damage from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and damage from wildfires that plagued the West Coast. And the numbers of lives lost and injured continue to grow.

States all across the country suffered damage from all forms of severe weather, including wildfires, resulting smoke and ash, droughts, floods, unseasonable tornadoes, damaging hail, excessive rain, dangerous winds, record snowfalls, and severe thunderstorms. Sixteen devastating weather events, each with a price tag over $1 billion, tested this country’s resolve and took lives.

I listed Maria, but this storm warrants its own discussion. Damage estimates are just under $100 billion for this hurricane that devastated Puerto Rico and other nearby islands. Some parts of Puerto Rico remain without power still and will be for eight months or more as efforts to rebuild the electric grid continue. If that doesn’t make you want to put up solar panels or live free off the grid, I don’t know what will.

But surely it will get better? No, say scientists, climate change will continue to cause worse weather. Every state is experiencing erratic and above-average temperatures, five of which set record temps last year, and in December, Alaska experienced temps that were more than 15 degrees above average.

That was 2017. Right away, 2018 added insult to injury in California, when land that was raw and barren from the recent historic wildfires was pummeled by mudslides destroying homes and lives. While we can quantify the damage to property, the harm caused to humans is, in some cases, quite literally immeasurable.

For instance, there are physical health hazards from wildfires that accompany the smoke and ash that blanketed not only California, but also nearby Washington and Oregon. Even more difficult to measure are the psychological tolls that frightening weather events have on people. Unfortunately, we are all too familiar with that concept in Oklahoma.

If you are like me, you like the optimistic, fresh start a new year offers. So here is a productive tool you can use to offset some of this human activity that leads to this troubling news. Previously I’ve mentioned the EPA’s Carbon Footprint Calculator. This is a great way to live consciously while actively doing what you can to reduce your daily greenhouse gas emissions.

As the price of climate change and erratic weather continues to rise in American lives and property, every individual effort helps.

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.

Roth: Putting politics aside for renewable 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 November 27, 2017.


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

Putting politics aside for renewable energy

Green cities continue to emerge from the coal dust.

Optimistically, some leaders are even proving they will rise above politics with their efforts. After all, clean energy should not (and is not) about politics, anyhow.

Lately renewables are being chosen over other forms of energy for reasons of “dollars and sense.” I recently happened upon a piece about a Texas city that will be the first to use 100 percent renewables in U.S. News, which led me to that publication’s list of the 10 states using the most renewable energy. The top 10 are a bit surprising and extremely promising, especially when you consider all the abundant clean energy here in Oklahoma.

In these 10 places, it’s not about whether they were likely to have supported Obama’s Clean Power Plan or Trump’s plan to eradicate it; these leaders have run the numbers and are implementing renewables accordingly, because it’s in their citizens’ economic interests.

That Texas city, the city of Georgetown, despite being extremely conservative, is one of the first cities in the country to use 100 percent renewables. The mayor there, Dale Ross, intends for his legacy to be that the environment in his city, and thus the planet, will be better because of Georgetown’s efforts.

Renewable energy just makes sense, say Mayor Ross and other city leaders, so politics didn’t (and shouldn’t) play a role in the decision. When the city was looking for a new energy provider, they discovered that after deregulation of retail energy, renewables were more cost-effective. Additionally, policies former Texas Gov. Rick Perry put in place allowed for the installation of large generation tie lines to bring wind across the state from the windy west side. As a result, Georgetown locked in their rates with wind and solar energy for 20 years.

I love the mayor’s quote regarding that decision, “Do you think that the wind is going to stop blowing in Texas, and the sun is going to stop shining in Texas, before or after we run out of fossil fuels?”

Oklahoma has a chance to put politics aside, too. When something is cheaper and cleaner, logic should conquer politics. Recently, my friend Johnson Bridgwater, who runs the Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club, spoke about Oklahoma’s solar energy potential (it is enormous). He pointed to a map of the U.S. that indicated states with excellent “peak sun hours,” or those with the best potential for solar energy, and asked, “If this map revealed our oil and gas plays, would we sit on them?” No way. We’d materialize that energy. Which is what I hope our state will do. Our energy potential is before us, if we have the courage to remove politics and act in our citizens’ collective interests.

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.

Roth: Coal ash disposal and verb tense

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on November 27, 2017.


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

Coal ash disposal and verb tense

Back in 2014, the Obama administration, through the Environmental Protection Agency, passed a final rule called the Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals from Electric Utilities regarding CCRs (coal combustion residuals or “coal ash”) disposal.

The rule addressed the concern that coal ash contains mercury, arsenic, and cadmium, and can and has leaked into groundwater, blown into the air, and decimated the surface.

But keeping in line with the idea you can’t please everyone, the rule was considered too lenient for some and too stringent for others. In fact, those in the former camp were dismayed the rule did not classify coal ash as toxic waste. What the final rule did do was to create regulations and standards concerning the disposal of the byproduct that comes from burning coal for energy.

Fast-forward to last month when the Trump administration’s Scott Pruitt indicated the EPA would reconsider the rule after being sued over it by Utility Solid Waste Activities Group, a utility company industry group, and AES Puerto Rico, which operates a coal-fired power plant.

Those parties asserted the rule went too far in its regulation over inactive pits, where coal ash has been deposited but is not actively being added to, and active pits, those areas currently being filled with ash.

This past week, in oral argument at the D.C. Circuit, the parties underwent a grammar lesson, which concentrated on whether the EPA’s authority extended to inactive coal ash pits.

A focus on where the waste “is disposed of” was said to concern the present tense, or active coal pits. It was argued by petitioners that the EPA had “limited statutory authority” over inactive pits that had not seen new coal ash in some time. This argument essentially suggests the reach of the EPA regulation is only on the disposal activity and not on the lingering environmental risks that remain.

This discussion over the tense of the statute and how it affected the EPA’s authority took a majority of the hearing and its detailed nuances brings into focus the reach of environmental regulation in America.

The EPA expressed its desire to address the issues in the rule through its rulemaking process. One judge on the D.C. Circuit voiced her concern that “nothing would ever get decided” if that were the route taken, seemingly a nod to the current administration’s multiple efforts to prop up the waning coal industry.

It seems to me that when one is arguing the breadth or limits to a new rule, like the Coal Ash Rule, it’s most important to look to the enabling act and its intended reach. In this case, the enabling act is the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which typically creates the framework for hazardous and non-hazardous solid wastes.

The Coal Ash Rule was promulgated under sub-part D, similar to open dumping of wastes, operation of municipal and industrial waste sites, and location restrictions like flood plains and wetlands.

It may be nuanced to argue verb tense, but it seems to me a regulation is effective only if it accomplishes its intended purpose to protect the public over the course of the hazardous and non-hazardous materials’ life, not just the act of someone “dumping” it somewhere at one single point in time.

“Safe disposal,” in the eyes of the waste’s nearest neighbor (and their water well), probably should include how it lingers in that disposal location.

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.

Roth: The Senate tax bill’s effect on 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 November 20, 2017.


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

The Senate tax bill’s effect on energy

Last week I considered how the House tax proposal would impact the energy industry. With the release of the Senate’s proposal, we now wait to see how Congress will merge these two versions. The current schedule has them submitting a bill to the president before year-end.

As a refresher, the House plan severely injured renewables, hitting wind the hardest, with its early sunset of vital tax credits including both the investment tax credit and production tax credit. Not the Senate bill, though – it leaves those in place. It also leaves the marginal well credit in place, a fact that many Oklahomans will appreciate.

One positive feature of the Senate’s version is its silence on the electric vehicle credit. The House bill removed a $7,500 incentive for EV car buyers.

The incentive was achieved via a bipartisan effort aimed at bringing parity between electric and combustion engine vehicles. Since the incentive was put in place, every major car manufacturer has unveiled plans to increase its electric vehicle production. Some companies, like Volvo, pledged to make all of their vehicles electric (hybrid or plug-in) or “electrified” (a non-plug-in electric version) beginning in 2019.

The EV component is really important to the renewable energy story, as it will no doubt be a catalyst for those who are reluctant to embrace other types of green living such as installing solar panels on their roofs or a geothermal system underground.

Other key differences between the bills are that the Senate’s version also cuts the corporate tax to 20 percent, but not until 2019, where the House’s cut would go in to effect after Dec. 31. Unlike the House’s proposal, the Senate version does not eliminate any brackets, but does lower rates more than its House counterpart.

The Senate bill treats small business pass-through entities differently – more favorably – than the House bill. There are a vast number of oil and gas related pass-through small businesses in Oklahoma that would stand to benefit.

While the Senate version is far more courteous to the energy sector than its House counterpart, there are still many things left to contemplate. For one, two major promises by congressional Republicans have been the repeal of Obamacare and tax reform.

The Senate bill attempts the old two birds, one stone idiom with its repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate. This relates to the energy industry as so many oil and gas companies and affiliates are small businesses, which often means many of their employees are independent contractors. Obviously this repeal would lower tax rates for all Americans, but its wide-reaching effects on the state of health care in our country remains to be seen. It is estimated that remaining insured Americans would see an increase of 10 percent in their premiums, which might actually exceed the tax break savings the bill otherwise proposes for middle-income Americans. Stay tuned.

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.

Roth: A victory for fossil fuels over renewables

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on November 13, 2017.


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

A victory for fossil fuels over renewables

At this juncture, it isn’t shocking to read the new tax proposal and learn that it harms renewable energy.

The headlines immediately bifurcated the energy sector into winners (fossil fuels) and losers (renewables). Retention of many long-standing fossil fuel breaks and incentives were an unsurprising boon for oil and gas companies, while the phase-out of many energy efficiency-related investment tax credits have the green energy industry angry and activated, and rightfully so.

It is counterintuitive that the tax proposal injures wind so badly, since it is proven, efficient, and reliable, and complements well with natural gas as the least expensive power source(s). While logic can’t be tied to the attack on wind, politics can. The tax proposal keeps in line with the current administration’s efforts to favor fossil fuels, especially coal, no matter how dirty or expensive. Plus, the revenue yanked from wind incentives goes to fund the newly created corporate tax revenue hole, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates this past week is the largest part of the $1.7 trillion estimated the GOP plan adds to America’s debt.

Subtitle F (the proposal’s heading dealing with energy credits) inadvertently got the letter grade it deserved as it outright fails renewable energy. Under the plan, the $7,500 tax incentive on electric vehicles is eliminated. States that mandated goals for zero-emission vehicles did so with an expectation of the incentive. Not to mention EV car companies whose business projections are based on the existence of the tax credit and a chance to keep American car manufacturers competitive with the world.

This section also contains certain repeals of oil and gas incentives, too, namely, the repeal of tax credits for marginal wells. This is especially negative for Oklahoma as the age and extent of our historic oil and gas production means we still have a significant number of marginal wells at work here in Oklahoma. Since many of these are owned and operated by mom-and-pop companies, it seems the GOP draft favors today’s large corporations over small businesses, at least as it relates to oil and gas marginal wells.

Another less obvious way the plan helps oil and gas corporations and harms renewable energy developers is the latter’s reliance on tax equity investors. Larger exploration and production-companies will benefit from the new corporate tax rate of 20 percent, down from 35 percent. But the model for many renewable energy projects relies upon, among other things, tax equity financing. When tax exposure is lower, it could follow that there would be less interest in tax equity financing projects, of all kinds, and especially energy.

Nevertheless, I remain steadfast in my confidence for our state’s and nation’s diverse energy future. Of course this optimism is buttressed by the reminder that there are still forthcoming amendments, and this plan will not likely become the final law. The bill, as proposed, violates the “Byrd rule,” a Senate reconciliation rule that, in part, allows senators to block legislation when it would considerably increase the federal deficit beyond a 10-year term.

So far, there are over a trillion reasons either of our two U.S. senators could block this draft and insist it be rewritten to help all forms of Oklahomans’ energies. Stay tuned.

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.

Director Jim Roth introduces Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to Oklahoma, state’s clean energy potential

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO, visits NextEra Energy with Jim Roth, Phillips Murrah Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group

Jim Roth, Phillips Murrah Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice, was quoted in a Duncan Banner article by Katherine Farrow regarding a recent meeting he and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had in Duncan, OK on Nov. 8 in regards to Oklahoma’s clean energy future.

Read Roth’s comments from the article below:

Jim Roth, Director and Chair of law firm Phillips Murrah’s Clean Energy Practice Group, said that he was contacted by Zuckerberg’s office approximately four months ago to set up the visit.

“Mr. Zuckerberg has undertaken a year of travel challenge where he’s going to all parts of America, and particularly states he’d never been to before — his office reached out to me about four months ago — inquiring about if they were to come to Oklahoma, what would I recommend they see,” Roth said. “I began to describe to them the promise of Oklahoma’s wind energy and future solar energy and that seemed to pique their interest.”

Kismet dictated that Zuckerberg and his team would be visiting the week before Veteran’s Day, and Roth knew that wind energy giant NextEra would be the perfect destination due to their veteran-friendly hiring policies.

“One of Oklahoma’s larger wind developers also has a program where they actively recruit and employ veterans and this week of his planned visit being near Veteran’s Day, I think that was also interesting to them,” said Roth. “So, it was nice that NextEra wind energy, with its Rush Springs wind project that came online just last year, was able to play host.”

Zuckerberg spent his time at the wind farm speaking with wind technicians, land owners and neighbors of the project about the ways wind energy has been beneficial to their lives.

“Mr. Zuckerberg wanted a chance to have a casual, relaxed, engaging conversation with actual Oklahoma wind technicians,” Roth said. “He asked that some surrounding neighbors and landowners that had turbines on their properties come and join and sit down for lunch. So, it led to just a really great dialogue where he asked questions and they provided some neat answers and he got to learn about — what it takes to be a certified wind technician. What other careers that some of those employees had — before and why they loved being in wind energy today. He’s heard from the landowners, their appreciation for how the funding goes directly to local schools, how the wind turbine royalty payments have helped their farms with some secondary income and generally just had a really nice exchange. He’s very gracious, the guests and the wind techs — had a great time engaging with him and all in all it was definitely a nice conversation.”

A look at a horizontal blade that was on the ground as well as a tour of an actual wind turbine and tower were two of the items on the agenda for Zuckerberg, who according to Roth, very much enjoyed the time spent and knowledge gleaned from the experience.

“He just talked about how kind everybody was — how much he enjoyed it, I think he really enjoyed the back-and-forth with the local landowners and the wind-techs, so I would say all-in-all he seemed to have a really positive experience,” Roth said.

Even Zuckerberg’s advance team enjoyed their look at Duncan and the surrounding areas, according to Roth. The team reportedly was in the area several days in advance to make sure the visit ran smoothly and had nothing but glowing reviews for Duncan and Stephens County.

“—His team had arrived a few days in advance, enjoyed themselves in Duncan, had a chance to site visit the day before just to make sure everything went smoothly,” said Roth. “They shared with me they had a wonderful, positive visit to Duncan and they loved, ‘How friendly everyone in Duncan is.’ ”

Roth said he was extremely impressed with Zuckerberg, as well and hopes to be able to boast of another Facebook founder visit to the state someday.

“There’s just this human element, right? Where he arrives in jeans and a hoodie and is unassuming and was just down-to-earth and very gracious and treated everybody equally. I saw him really demonstrate a level of intellectual curiosity and just a graciousness toward people that was nice to get to witness firsthand,” Roth said. “I’m thrilled that — they had such a good visit and I hope they’ll come back and even invest more in Oklahoma.”

Read the full article from the Duncan Banner.

NewsOK Q&A: Manufacturing sales tax exemption is tool for attracting, maintaining investment

From NewsOK / by Paula Burkes
Published: November 3, 2017
Click to see full story – Manufacturing sales tax exemption is tool for attracting, maintaining investment

Click to see Jim Roth’s attorney profile

Jim A. Roth, Phillips Murrah

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

Q: What is Oklahoma’s manufacturing sales tax exemption?

A: Goods and equipment used in a manufacturing operation can be purchased exempt from sales and use tax by manufacturers. This type of sales tax exemption is designed to attract and promote business. It’s a proven tool that governments employ to make their communities more attractive. The rationale is simple: draw out-of-state investment and keep in-state investment rather than relinquishing that investment (and the associated jobs, taxes and infrastructure) to a competing location.

Q: What is the relevance of the sales tax exemption to the energy industry?

A: Under Oklahoma law, the term “manufacturing” includes the conversion of materials and natural resources into other materials that have a different form or use. This definition encompasses processes ranging from the manufacturing of oil field equipment to petroleum refining. Electric power generation is also considered manufacturing. As a result, power generators such as natural gas-fired power plants, coal-fired power plants and wind energy facilities are deemed manufacturers and are permitted to purchase equipment to be used in the power generation process exempt from sales and use tax. Ultimately, the exemption is designed to help qualifying energy companies stay afloat — especially during capital-intensive phases — and keep investing in Oklahoma.

Q: This exemption has been a hot topic at the state Capitol during special legislative session. What are some of the issues at hand?

A: Oklahoma is facing a historic budget shortfall, with risks of further cuts to state agencies becoming a very real possibility. Legislators are searching for dollars to help plug financial holes before the ship sinks, and many of our state’s tax incentives and exemptions may be on the chopping block. There has been discussion of removing wind energy companies from access to the manufacturing sales tax exemption. While wind developers have made it publicly clear they’re already invested in Oklahoma to the tune of billions and plan to stay for the long haul, it’s important to revisit the reason for such exemptions in the first place and consider that the opposite is also true: if certain companies or industries are punitively cut out of such exemptions while still paying millions in taxes, it may make Oklahoma a difficult place to do business, which will, in the long run, discourage investment and aggravate our state’s budget problems.

 

Roth: Sharing the warmth with 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 November 6, 2017.


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

Sharing the warmth with solar energy

You may have noticed the Salvation Army’s Share the Warmth program on your electric bill.

Many areas have similar utility assistance programs that help residents who are having a difficult time paying their utility bills. Some utility companies are taking this idea to a whole new level by building solar energy projects whose electrons are devoted specifically to lower-income residents. Three such examples come from New York utility Con Edison’s pilot project; Colorado’s collaboration between the state Energy Office, Grid Alternatives, a nonprofit, and Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association, an electric co-op; and finally, a California law that incentivizes affordable housing owners to install rooftop solar that would pass financial savings to tenants.

The Colorado low-income community solar project, currently the largest of its kind in the U.S., was made possible in part by a grant awarded by the Colorado Energy Office. Most of the energy from the 1.95-megawatt solar array will be devoted to low-income residents and housing providers as well as nonprofits, all located in rural areas. The pilot project is scalable and affordable and maximizes less-desirable land adjacent to a landfill. Plus, the project will help train a new workforce of solar installers. For one of the partners, Grid Alternatives, the project serves as a continuation of its mission to bring solar choice to people who do not have the resources to install it on their own.

In New York, Con Edison’s program just received approval in August and intends to pilot a scalable program with an eventual goal of 11 megawatts that would serve up to 6,000 residents from the utility’s low-income bill assistance program. New York’s Public Utility Commission was involved in reviewing and approving Con Edison’s project. The PUC recognized that the project aligned with the state of New York’s “Reforming the Energy Vision” plan to reduce emissions and increase access to distributed generation.

Never to be outdone in the solar arena, California has committed up to $100 million per year for the next four to 10 years toward low-income solar accessibility. Last year, the Legislature passed the Multifamily Affordable Housing Solar Roofs Program, which uses funds from the state’s greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program to provide subsidies to affordable housing owners who install solar with the requirement that associated cost savings are extended to tenants.

The financial benefits that accompany these programs are largely tied to flexibility in states’ policies such as third-party ownership of solar assets and net energy metering. Third-party ownership allows for a company with adequate capital to build and bear the costs of these projects and the resident to benefit from the system. Net energy metering is the idea that consumers who generate their own electricity can use that electricity anytime, instead of at the moment it is generated. Policies like these are imperative to solar energy development.

If you are like the many Americans who love the idea of incorporating solar energy, I encourage you to reach out to your electric utility company and let them know of your interest.

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.

Roth: A focus on conservation, climate science

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on October 23, 2017.


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

A focus on conservation, climate science

Once a year, I like to spread the word about an organization that is not only near and dear to me, but plays a vital role in shepherding and improving the environment in our great state and beyond.

The Nature Conservancy’s work focuses on land, water, and ocean conservation, and climate science. Formed in 1951, TNC works in 72 countries with a dedicated staff that includes more than 600 scientists.

In its earliest days, TNC accomplished its mission by acquiring land that was ecologically valuable in order to protect it. The organization also received conservation easements and held partnerships with the Bureau of Land Management. Conservation easements, somewhat analogous to the premise of historic preservation guidelines in which the landowner retains title, permits TNC the right to enforce restrictions on certain types of harmful activities. Today, 3.2 million acres are held under conservation easement.

TNC’s work has always been grounded in science, long before science was so controversial. The national organization has an annual program called the Science Impact Project that brings together exceptional and pioneering scientists from a multitude of fields who apply with a submission of a unique project. The program provides a unique way to foster collaboration and innovation to promote conservation efforts while preparing scientists to be multifaceted leaders.

Thanks to TNC, right here in Oklahoma, we have the largest protected remnant of tallgrass prairie on earth at the Joseph H. Williams Preserve. In fact, some of Oklahoma’s favorite in-state getaway areas benefit from our local TNC, such as Black Mesa Preserve, Keystone Ancient Forest Preserve and the J.T. Nickel Preserve in Cherokee County. These are all open to the public.

While Oklahoma has more preserves that are more limited to the public, all can be visited on what is referred to as a field trip, where the organization holds events in these great spaces. Please check out the website for these details. Many resources can be found on the website, including one called “Plant this, not that,” which offers a guide for planting native plant species rather than non-native invasive ones (read: redbuds in lieu of Bradford pears, please).

There are numerous ways to get involved with the Nature Conservancy. You can volunteer, visit a preserve, use their carbon calculator to assist you in reducing your footprint in your day-to-day life, and for a worthwhile interruption, take a virtual tour with phenomenal 360-degree videos that will remind you just how spectacular Planet Earth is. They also provide internships for both high school and undergraduate students.

I would be remiss if I did not suggest (nudge): If you have an interest in making an investment that will join with others to create a meaningful and large-scale impact for good, I suggest financially supporting the Nature Conservancy. The organization is efficient, transparent, and effective, and is ranked among the most respected nonprofits. It has met the BBB Wise Giving Alliance standards and has been recognized by Charity Navigator for its track record on accountability. I hope to see you in the great outdoors. Thanks, TNC, for all you continue to do for Oklahoma and beyond.

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.

Roth: The potential of offshore wind production

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on October 16, 2017.


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

The potential of offshore wind production

There have been so many exciting clean energy topics to cover lately that I want to circle back to one that was announced in late summer.

We know onshore wind development costs continue to decrease, but as Seb Henbest from Bloomberg New Energy Finance indicated, (hinting at that group’s National Energy Outlook report) offshore wind costs are expected to fall even more rapidly than those of onshore wind. The in-depth report considers factors that will shape the sector to 2040.

This prediction is all the more likely thanks, at least in part, to U.S. Sens. Tom Carper, D-Del., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, along with 10 of their colleagues from states all across the nation, who have introduced a bill that will encourage the development of offshore wind.

The legislation, if passed, would incentivize developers using a 30 percent investment tax credit redeemable for the first 3,000 megawatts placed into service. In an environment where incentives are being swiped from our local wind developers, it is refreshing to see a group of our nation’s representatives, diverse in both their geography and political affiliations, propose such a productive industry expansion bill.

The lawmakers suggest that volume of energy capacity would require the development of 600 wind turbines. Emphasizing the critical role the tax credit would play, the bill proposes to incentivize the first 3,000 megawatts, rather than a specific cutting off the credit on a specified date. The legislation defines “offshore facilities” broadly, including any facility located in the inland navigable waters of the United States, such as the Great Lakes, or in coastal waters including the territorial seas of the United States.

What makes this exciting is that while there is the potential to power the entire east coast with offshore, as with all burgeoning technology, costs are high. But as Europe has demonstrated, a little incentive goes a long way. The result: increased investment combines with advances in technology which lead to rapid declines in cost. It is a proverbial win-win. Or, as the authors of this new legislation called it, a “win-win-win” (domestically-produced, renewable power, cleaner air, and more American jobs).

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.