Public Law

The go-to firm
Cox Smith draws on a tradition going back more than 80 years in serving as counsel for Texas cities and governmental units acting in various capacities. Our clients include not only municipalities but also municipal electric and water utilities, transit authorities, a large county hospital district, member-owned electric cooperatives and other entities characterized by public ownership. We have municipal utility experience, as well as administrative litigation capability in representing both public and private clients. This combination of public policy knowledge and hands-on industry experience, including as general counsel to operating entities associated with municipal utilities, makes us a go-to firm for public and private sector clients involved in municipal utility matters as well as in joint public/private infrastructure projects.

Electric utilities
Cox Smith fully understands the deregulated operating environment for electric utilities in Texas, and represents municipal electric utilities in their dealings with the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas, as well as energy users that operate in the competitive electric market. We advise our clients in PUC regulatory matters, including those that involve rate proceedings, transmission and distribution issues, and power marketing activities. Our lawyers also help private and public entities develop power supply arrangements and generation projects. We have also assisted in helping shape regulatory policy in rulemaking proceedings at the PUC and have represented clients in challenges to PUC rules that are inconsistent with statutory standards.

Our firm has represented a large integrated municipal electric and gas utility with generation, transmission and distribution assets, large distribution electric cooperatives, and smaller municipal and electric cooperative electric distribution systems, as well as large commercial and industrial customers participating in areas open to Texas retail electric competition.

Members of the public law practice have participated in major administrative and judicial proceedings involving natural gas supply, electric interconnection issues, construction of nuclear and other generation facilities, and inter-utility relations. We regularly represent clients in contested PUC administrative proceedings and in agency rulemaking activities. Our work also has included drafting and negotiating contracts for the development and construction of large power generation facilities, public policy advocacy with the PUC and the Texas Legislature, and negotiation of franchise and other agreements with local governments.

Nuclear energy
When the San Antonio gas and electric utility, with other public and private owners, formed an independent operating company for their nuclear power facility a decade ago, our firm became that new entity’s general counsel. As a result, we have experience in representing an operating entity for a nuclear facility on behalf of its joint municipal and private owners. This representation has included complex issues related to the coordination of public and private ownership interests and related regulatory matters.

Public-private development
Cox Smith lawyers have assisted clients in a number of projects involving private sector participation in the development of public infrastructure projects and in private/public joint ownership projects of various types. Clients depend on Cox Smith in these complex transactions to advise them on public law issues associated with the use of public funds, governmental immunity, procurement and competition laws, and constitutional debt limitations. Our lawyers work with developing authorities, engineers, title companies, lenders, and many other participants in complex public-private projects, including the financing, construction, and operation of jointly owned electric power generation facilities, development of commercial infrastructure connected with property of hospital districts, the investment of public pension funds in private development programs, and the private development of a bio-fuel treatment using waste resources of a municipal waste-water treatment facility.

Water rights
Cox Smith advises a wide range of clients on their water-related legal matters. Developers, regulators, water utilities, landowners, financiers and investors seek our counsel in a broad array of administrative proceedings involving water rights and the provision of water services. We thoroughly understand the unique rules for the Edwards Aquifer Authority in the San Antonio region and are at the forefront of water rights law under the Texas Water Code.

In typical examples, our firm has represented developer and utility clients in recycled water supply projects to conserve drinking water resources while providing irrigation water for parks, golf courses and farms. We also conduct due diligence review for developer clients on water rights and water service issues associated with the development of land, and have advised investors on water projects to acquire, transport and deliver water to municipalities.

Land use
An important part of our public law work is representing public utility clients in land use issues, particularly eminent domain and right of way disputes. Municipal utilities that we assist in such actions include the major gas and electric and water utilities in San Antonio, plus a large rural electrical cooperative in the Guadalupe River valley. Our lawyers help clients secure rights of way for utility projects, often without costly litigation, thanks to our knowledge of administrative condemnation proceedings and our working relationships with the appointed commissioners in many Texas counties. Our sound, sensible approach helps get projects done, as we use thorough knowledge of administrative condemnation procedures to formulate solutions that both landowners and municipal utilities can agree on.

Municipal and administrative law
At the local level our lawyers work with officials of all types of governmental bodies, including city and county officials and members of special bodies, such as water districts, regional transit authorities, municipal utilities and other political subdivisions. We represent clients in matters concerning land development, public bidding and procurement limitations, public finance and bond issuance, organization and governance, and many additional local government issues.

Cox Smith also represents Texas municipalities and government agencies with respect to open meetings and public information-related issues. We counsel these clients on proper subject matter for closed sessions, proper postings for meetings and subject matter descriptions of issues to be considered, and in urging exceptions from public disclosure requirements in open records proceedings before the Texas Attorney General.

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Practice Contact
W. Roger Wilson
Related Practices
Corporate and Securities
Government Relations
Oil, Gas and Energy Law
Related Industries
Distribution / Transportation / Manufacturing
Energy / Utilities
Government and Public Agencies
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