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February 01, 2024 Editor's Column

Editor’s Column

Timothy J. McHugh

Welcome to the latest edition of Infrastructure, where we discuss current developments arising in this ever-evolving world of deregulation, competition, and technological advances. I am excited to introduce myself to you as your new Editor, a role that I hope to serve in for some time and through which I hope to learn more from and with all of the members of the Infrastructure & Regulated Industries Section. I am honored to take on this role and look forward to engaging with you, our readers, as we explore the latest regulatory developments impacting our society.

Before we delve into this issue, I want to take a moment to express the Section’s sincere gratitude to Bill Drexel, our outgoing Editor. Bill has been an invaluable asset to the Section and his many years of service have left an indelible mark on our publication. From working on telecom issues as senior vice president and assistant general counsel at AT&T to covering the metaverse in his last issue as Infrastructure Editor, Bill’s professional career has been one to envy. And since retiring from AT&T in 2019, Bill has dedicated numerous hours to his prison ministry, a noble endeavor I understand that he will now expand on. I wish Bill all the best and thank him for his unwavering commitment to our Section.

My first issue of Infrastructure as Editor is an exciting one. It features a thought-provoking article on natural gas restrictions in the United States by Agustin J. Ros, Ph.D., Kelly Lear Nordby, Ph.D., and Adam Berns of Ankura Consulting Group, LLC. The authors delve into the complex landscape of local and state governments’ restrictions on natural gas. The piece begins with an overview of the current “state of play,” detailing the number of jurisdictions implementing these restrictions, the characteristics of these restrictions, and the policy goals they aim to achieve. The article also sheds light on the number of state preemptions of local governments and the policy reasons driving these actions. As the article progresses, it provides a balanced evaluation of the benefits and costs of natural gas restrictions. This includes an examination of the expected environmental and health benefits from restricting use of natural gas in buildings and the potential costs these policies may impose on consumers. The article then delves into the legal implications of these restrictions, focusing on the case of California Restaurant Association v. City of Berkeley and its impact on local governments’ natural gas restrictions. The discussion also explores the potential relevance of the state-action immunity doctrine, which can exempt states and localities from liability under federal antitrust laws under certain conditions. This comprehensive analysis offers readers a nuanced understanding of the multifaceted issues surrounding natural gas restrictions.

As I look to the future, I see an evolving regulatory landscape filled with major opportunities for utilities, railroads, airlines, telecom, and the other industries covered by our Section. The pace of change in industry is rapid. And, depending on the industry, regulators are racing to catch up, falling behind, or regulating in leaps and bounds. I’m excited to be at the forefront of news and insights on these developments with you, the readers, through Infrastructure. Thank you for joining me on this journey.

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Timothy J. McHugh