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Prof. Steven Croley Offers Insight Into Energy Department, Role as General Counsel
Prof. Steven Croley Offers Insight Into Energy Department, Role as General Counsel

Jenny Whalen
March 31, 2015

Transformational changes taking place now in energy production won't require lifetimes to be achieved—some will occur even before current Michigan Law students graduate, said Professor Steven Croley, general counsel of the U.S. Department of Energy, on Monday.

Currently on leave from the Law School, Croley, the Henry Burns Hutchins Collegiate Professor of Law, returned to campus March 30 to discuss his role as general counsel and share how the Department of Energy is working to resolve threats and capitalize on opportunities in the energy market at home and abroad.

"The mission of the department is very diverse. It is often technical and, in contrast to other topics studied in law school, much of its work is transactional rather than regulatory," said Croley, who was nominated for his post by President Barack Obama in 2013.

The department engages in three basic areas, Croley said—“big science” research and development, promoting the production of energy across all fuel types, and maintaining the country's nuclear stockpile, as well as supporting nonproliferation globally.

"We're trying to keep the world safe from acute and chronic disaster, fuel the economy by promoting all types of energy across all sources (with an emphasis on cleaner forms), and focus on the domestic economy," he said. "This is all taking place against the backdrop of changing technology, which has altered our domestic and global politics."

As energy production has increased—the U.S. is now number one in oil and natural gas—the need for lawyers knowledgeable about the economic and geopolitical issues that govern trade and diplomatic relations has followed.

For instance, one issue currently facing the department concerns the export of liquefied natural gas, Croley said. While U.S. gas can be sold to free trade agreement (FTA) countries—sales to non-FTA nations require a license from the department—the department may increasingly confront the possibility of companies in FTA nations seeking to re-export U.S. gas to a non-FTA country, he explained. This issue, and many others like it, will be resolved as the U.S. expands its energy exports.

Croley also spoke on the department's efforts to track nuclear material around the globe, manage commercial and defense nuclear waste in the U.S., support clean technologies, and pilot programs that seek greater energy efficiency at lower costs.

The talk was sponsored by MEnergy, and co-sponsored by the Environmental Law Society and Frank Murphy Society.

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