Colleen Wenos Joins Energy Law Wisconsin

In the spring, Energy Law Wisconsin hired its first
paralegal, Colleen Wenos. Colleen has a BA in English from the University of
Wisconsin Stevens Point, previous work experience in magazine publishing and
marketing, and an affinity for dark chocolate.
(The last item put her over the top in the job interview.)  Colleen is currently pursuing a legal
certificate from Madison College and plans to take two courses this fall.

At Energy Law Wisconsin, Colleen will support the firm in
its efforts to provide clients affordable legal services, by performing legal
and business research, assisting in contract drafting, and helping with
day-to-day business needs.

Welcome, Colleen!


Taking on Risk at the Small Wind Conference

On June 14, I presented “How to Limit Your Risk in a Small
Wind Business” at the Small Wind Installers Conference in Stevens Point. There were about 250 attendees, including installers, manufacturers, utility representatives, environmental
groups and government agency representatives.

I was part of a panel titled “Reality Check: Legal and Insurance Issues,” where I joined two small wind installers who had faced liability concerns in New York and New Jersey.  The situations they described were especially difficult for wind installers as they appear to have been the subject of claims for liability, even though by all accounts there were not defects in their installation efforts.  Insurance agent Alan Virgil also spoke on how to insure a small wind business.

During my presentation about how to manage risk in the small wind industry, I gave the audience suggestions on how minimize risk generally,
providing two fundamental risk management principles and five risk management “commandments” to help keep them out of trouble.  If you would like a copy of the overheads from this talk, just e-mail me at

The heart of my message was that up-front planning is critically important when forming a business and entering into a wind project
contract to ensure risks are allocated fairly and that wind energy entrepreneurs don’t expose themselves to unwarranted amounts of liability.

The Small Wind Installers Conference was a great opportunity to talk to leading national players in the small wind industry and discuss the
latest developments in state and federal renewable energy policy.

Japanese Attorney Visits Energy Law Wisconsin

On May 25, Mitsuko Kawamoto, a practicing attorney from Tokyo, Japan, visited Energy Law Wisconsin with her husband Yoshimizu (Mitch) Kawamoto, and their energetic two year old son Yoshiharu (Hatch) Kawamoto.   Mitsuko is a visiting scholar with the recommendation of the Japan Federation of Bar Association at the University of Illinois Law School in Champaign, Illinois. She is particularly interested in legal issues associated with the production and regulation of bio-ethanol.

I met Mitsuko in April 2011, when I spoke at the 3rd Annual Law Advanced Biofuels Law and Regulation Conference at the University of Illinois, sponsored by the Energy Bioscience Institute (EBI).  EBI is a research and development organization that harnesses advanced knowledge in biology, the physical sciences, engineering, and environmental and social sciences to devise viable solutions to global energy challenges and reduce the impact of fossil fuels to global warming.

Mitsuko and I discussed the practice of law in Japan and the United States’ system of federal, state and local laws that regulate energy and the environment.   Specifically, Mitsuko was interested to know:

  • When does a federal law “trump” a state or local law?
  • What are the differences between energy policy in Wisconsin and Illinois?
  • How to build a career as an energy attorney after graduation from law school.

My meeting with Mitsuko was a good reminder of the significant differences between the practice of law in the United States and overseas.  Among other things, Mitsuko shared that virtually no attorneys in Japan specialize in energy law.  This may seem surprising, given Japan’s highly industrialized economy and heavy reliance on energy sources including coal, nuclear and renewables.   We each appreciated the international perspective.  In addition, Hatch showed great promise for a future career in the energy industry, happily playing with a toy electric and gas utility truck in the office.  I enjoyed lunch with Mitsuko and her family before they left to visit the Wisconsin Capitol and the University of Wisconsin campus.

Mitsuko is the second international attorney I have had the privilege to visit with in the past 12 months, following my earlier meeting with Ugandan attorney Alex Buri.  Even for a solo practitioner in Wisconsin, the energy world is getting flatter.