Energy law is a branch of law that developed as a result of the federal government’s regulatory involvement in the creation, usage, sale, transmission, transportation, disposal and conservation of energy in all forms. Energy is a broad term that includes electricity, gas, oil, nuclear, thermal, biomass, solar, wind, thermal and alcohol fuels.
Until the enactment of the Federal Power Act of 1920, energy industries operated unfettered by the federal government. The framework for energy regulation began with the Federal Power Act during the Great Depression and continued into the 1940s. During WWII, the Manhattan Project was set up to develop the atomic bomb and ushered in the advent of nuclear weapons and nuclear regulation.
Not until the 1970s did the U.S. experience fears of energy shortages, which led to the formation of the Energy Department in 1977 and subsequent codes, resulting in countless federal energy laws and regulations.
U.S. codes of law in the area of energy cover rule-making, inspections and licensing. The scope of laws affecting industries today in the field of energy is evidenced in such examples as public utility regulation, oil and gas royalties, natural gas transportation, petroleum marketing, oil pollution, public health and safety from nuclear radiation and waste, leases and prospecting, transmission and sale of energies, and energy plant or storage facility licenses, construction, acquisitions or dispositions.