April 21, 2021 Columns

Chair’s Column

By Catherine P. McCarthy

Thank you for being an Infrastructure reader, and thank you to Infrastructure Editor Bill Drexel. I also wanted to thank this issue’s authors—well done. I encourage you to take a look at our podcast discussions with other Infrastructure authors and earlier issues of Infrastructure, both available on our webpage, https://www.americanbar.org/groups/infrastructure-regulated-industries/.

With the rapid acceleration of the energy transition, developments in communications technology, and increased interest in infrastructure development more generally, the members of the ABA’s Infrastructure and Regulated Industries Section are well-positioned to share knowledge. Whether you are new to IRIS or have participated for some time, I recommend that you spend some time diving into our Section’s offerings. I anticipate that you will appreciate the broad range of views and legal experiences shared by our members. I highlight important IRIS developments and member offerings below.

Free of any additional charge, IRIS members accessed the IRIS virtual Spring Meeting 90-minute virtual panel and discussions held on April 7 and April 8. Our webinars included Q&A sessions, and they focused on challenging issues at the forefront of law and policy debates on infrastructure development and use and remain available free of charge to Section members on the ABA website. We are grateful to our Spring meeting’s sponsor, Charles River Associates, for the support for, and participation in, the work of our Section.

The April 7 IRIS webinar focused on infrastructure security: Physical and Cyber Security Threats to Communications, Energy and Utilities Infrastructure—2021 Update for Legal Advisors. Panelists discussed recent challenges for those providing legal counsel on the consequences, as well as the planning for and prevention of, physical threats to infrastructure and cyber threats to infrastructure. Panelists identified legal issues arising from recent incidents of single points of failure affecting communications and energy infrastructure. Panelists also discussed recent Executive Orders directed at supply chain issues for both the communications industry and the energy industry’s bulk power system. These Executive Orders are a great example of how our cross-industry members and discussions provide value. In this case, the Executive Order affecting the communications industry preceded that affecting the power industry and provided “lessons learned.”

IRIS Secretary Noelle J. Coates, Senior Counsel at American Electric Power moderated our April 7 panel. Ms. Coates practices energy law with a focus on renewables.

Our other April 7 panelists included David S. Turetsky Professor of Practice, College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity University at Albany, State University of New York; Kevin W. Jones, partner at Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP; and David B. Springer, associate at Bracewell LLP. David Turetsky is the former Bureau Chief of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission, where he was tasked with ensuring public safety and homeland security by advancing state-of-the-art communications that are accessible, reliable, resilient, and secure, in coordination with public and private partners. Kevin Jones advises clients on matters related to physical and cyber security, including preparedness and risk management, SAFETY Act protection, regulatory compliance, incident response, and stakeholder relations. David Springer provides corporate counseling on responses to cybersecurity incidents; before law school, Mr. Springer had a career in counterterrorism and intelligence at the National Counterterrorism Center and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

On April 8, we heard panelists present the 2021 Outlook on Infrastructure. They updated us with their expectations for regulated industries in 2021 and beyond. We also heard the outlook for communications infrastructure investment and development and legal issues emerging from the energy transition, including issues related to hydrogen applications.

Martha Kammoun, a partner at Bracewell LLP who focuses on infrastructure transactions, moderated this panel. Other panelists included Seabron Adamson, Vice President, Charles River Associates; Joseph Tocco, Senior Vice President, Assistant General Counsel at AT&T; and Dennis Hough, Director of Regulatory Policy at Avangrid, Inc. They discussed, among other matters, developments in power generation and electric transmission resulting from the energy transition and developments in communications infrastructure. They also identified the legal challenges presented by hydrogen projects—an area without much legal precedent. Finally, they discussed the implications of the fundamental economics and technology of hydrogen for these infrastructure deals.

Our IRIS website also provides free access to our members to past Section webinars, - including, for example, those on environmental issues facing natural gas; water utility mergers; climate change and the changing generation mix; electric vehicles and utilities; M&A in regulated industries; and energy storage. See https://www.americanbar.org/groups/infrastructure-regulated-industries/events_cle/.

Continued thanks to Darani Reddick, Chair of the IRIS Membership Committee, for working with the ABA to connect our members with law students. In November 2020, IRIS members met virtually with students from Howard University and Texas Southern Law School to discuss our careers and practices. On February 25, 2021, IRIS partnered with SEER and our members connected virtually with Philadelphia law students from Drexel, Duquesne, Widener, PSU-Dickinson, PSU-Penn State, Temple, Rutgers, and Villanova law schools. We were happy in our most recent effort to continue working with our Law Student Division liaison, Brittney Martinez.

I also wanted to mention that the IRIS Writing Committee has selected student author Ramon Ryan, of Vanderbilt Law School, from among the law student submissions for our Section’s annual K. William Kolbe Writing Competition for law students Mr. Ryan received a $2,500 cash prize and complimentary registration to the next fall or spring in-person meeting. Writing Committee Chair Erica Rancilio organized a smooth process for selecting the winning submission from among great submissions.

Please also take a look at our IRIS webpage for the most recent Recent Developments publication, which provides substantive summary analysis in various sectors. Thank you to Recent Developments Co-Editors Millicent Ronnlund and Daniel Poyner.

Please let me or IRIS Director Sue Koz know if you have ideas or questions. Feel free to drop us a note at cathy.mccarthy@bracewell.com or susan.koz@americanbar.org. We would love to hear from you. Please also feel free to call me at 202-828-5849 or Sue at 312-988-5604.

In closing, I am looking forward to spring and summer, and I hope the turn of the seasons brings you happiness. I am looking forward to more sun and fresh air.