Wednesday, May 07, 2008

YOU KNOW AN IDEA IS CATCHING ON, WHEN THEY TEACH ABOUT IT IN LAW SCHOOL

DAN PILLER, DES MOINES REGISTER - Here's another sign that wind energy is coming of age: Wind law is now piling up in court precedents and is being taught at law school. Drake University law professor Neil Hamilton, the director of the school's Agricultural Law Center, has just finished teaching the school's first class in wind law to eight law school students and three practicing attorneys. . .

Hamilton's wind law course covers the gamut of the legal nitty-gritty about wind energy, including easements and leases, property issues, land-use regulations, utility regulation, metering and financing, and state and federal tax, energy and environmental policies. Hamilton's class is one of three in the United States. The University of Texas at Austin has a wind law class and so does the University of Oregon in Eugene. . .

While wind has a gentle image, the industry has had its share of disputes. Some farmers in Buena Vista and Cherokee counties were angered earlier this year when the owner of the 10-year-old wind farm on their properties cut their annual payments, which totaled up to $2,100, by two-thirds. . .

Hamilton said most wind leases today don't have royalty clauses for electricity production, like the lease Meyer signed. Rather, they tend to pay $3,500 to $4,000 per year to lease land, with no production royalties. This differs from the structure of many oil and gas lease agreements. "You can claim your land rights, but how can you claim the wind?" Hamilton said.