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Brian O'Neill Nowadays, everyone seems to be bullish about liquefied natural gas. But Brian O’Neill was one of the original pioneers in the field. His early expertise is serving him well, making the LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae partner a go-to lawyer for new LNG projects. At the same time, O’Neill maintains a varied practice representing oil and gas producers, pipeline owners, and local distribution companies. “He has a very sophisticated technical grasp of the legal side of the business, but he can also see problems from the businessman’s point of view,” says Drew Fossum, general counsel of Houston-based Cross Country Energy. In one of O’Neill’s big early cases, he represented the Phillips Alaska Pipeline Co., one of eight co-owners of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. From the late 1970s until 1987, O’Neill worked to hammer out tariff and royalty rates with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the state of Alaska, and native Alaskan tribes. During that same period, O’Neill began to represent the Trunkline LNG Co., a unit of Houston-based Panhandle Energy (which was acquired in 2003 by the Southern Union Co.). Trunkline owns and operates one of four import terminals for liquefied natural gas in the United States. The Lake Charles, La., facility receives overseas shipments of natural gas chilled to liquid form at minus-285 degrees. Trunkline provides storage and regasification, turning the highly concentrated liquid back into usable natural gas. In 1977, O’Neill helped secure approval of the project from the Federal Power Commission, which Congress reorganized later that year to form FERC. O’Neill also worked on Trunkline’s contracts with Sonatrach, the Algerian energy company that supplied the LNG. Terminal operations were suspended in December 1983 because of the imported gas’s high cost. In 1989, after discussions with the Algerians, O’Neill secured additional authority from FERC for imports and sales by a marketing affiliate, Pan National Sales Inc. More recently, he prepared Trunkline’s open-access tariff. “He is effective at pulling together different types of people and organizations to resolve issues,” says William Grygar, vice president of rates and regulatory affairs at the Panhandle Eastern Pipe Line Co., another Panhandle unit. “He can adapt himself well to the type of people he’s working with, whether they are attorneys, accountants, or engineers.” Currently, O’Neill is involved in a half-dozen new LNG projects, some still in the planning stages and others that have already been authorized by regulators. “There’s been an explosion of new LNG projects in the belief that the country needs substantially more natural gas,” he says. O’Neill is counseling the TransCanada Corp. in a joint venture with the Shell Oil Co. to build an LNG terminal in Long Island Sound. The proposed terminal, known as Broadwater Energy, would be nine to 10 miles offshore, says O’Neill, and would provide a new source of natural gas for the Northeast. The plan has encountered strong opposition from some citizens groups and local public officials. He is also helping the Occidental Petroleum Corp. and the San Patricio Pipeline Co. in their efforts to build a new LNG terminal on the Texas Gulf Coast. Aside from his LNG work, O’Neill has an active appellate practice. In 2002, he won a precedent-setting decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on behalf of Panhandle subsidiary Sea Robin Pipeline Co., which owns pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico. The decision established a new definition for natural gas gathering, as opposed to transportation � a crucial distinction because transportation is subject to FERC jurisdiction, but gathering is not. O’Neill is also representing Enron Power Markets Inc. in a dispute over terminated power contracts with Sierra Pacific Power and the Nevada Power Co. O’Neill, 59, received his J.D. from Florida State University in 1971. He joined the Federal Power Commission in 1972 as a trial attorney, handling administrative trials over pipeline rates and construction. In 1975, he joined the now-defunct D.C. boutique Farmer, Shibley, McGuinn & Flood. When the firm dissolved five years later, he moved to LeBoeuf as a partner. Today O’Neill heads the firm’s 20-lawyer energy practice in the District, where well-known colleagues include Lawrence Acker and Samuel Behrends.

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