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Texas state senator says the Texas winter storm crisis cannot be a predictor of the future during UH Law Center's 3rd Annual Denney Wright Conference

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April 6, 2021 - Texas State Senator Paul Bettencourt said the impact of the severe winter weather across Texas in February was the result of poor preparation, and pointed to solutions that he believes will ensure such hardships never occur again.

Bettencourt was one of several speakers at the University of Houston Law Center’s 3rd Annual Denney L. Wright International Energy Conference, held in conjunction with the Houston Business and Tax Law Journal's 21st Annual Symposium. The event was held virtually, and attendees received 5.5 hours in Texas continuing legal education credit. More than 320 people from 12 different countries tuned into the conference.

"We have to fix it and we will fix it," Bettencourt said. "Texas is too big of a state to have an unreliable grid - we’ve got too much economy, too many lives are at risk."

Bettencourt urged that three major changes should take place to prevent the February winter storm crisis from repeating: an increase in base load generation, a heightened frequency of integrated load shedding tests, and a confrontation of redundancy.

President and CEO Bob Harvey of the Greater Houston Partnership discussed the Texas power crisis and the future of energy investment.

“The fundamental issue in ERCOT today is does not have enough dispatchable capacity to meet the circumstances we should be planning for," Harvey said.

Harvey said potential solutions to these issues include better management of rotating outages, weatherization, and planning and resource assessment.

The conference's opening panel discussed the current tax and energy investment climate in Mexico. Speakers included Mario Barrera, a tax practice partner at Thompson & Knight's office in Mexico City and Rodolfo Rueda, an international energy practice partner at the same firm.

The second panel, "When the Going Gets Tough the Tough Get Going: Brazil Oil & Gas Thrives Despite the Pandemic," featured Norman Jacob Nardoff, special counsel for Mayer Brown in Houston and an adjunct professor at the Law Center, and Leonardo Duarte Alves, an associate at Mayer Brown's office in Rio de Janeiro.

The following panel was the “Association of International Petroleum Negotiators Annual Writing Competition Winning Paper Presentation.” Michael Dension, who attends City Law School in London, wrote the winning paper, titled “Force Majeure Clauses in LNG Sales and Purchase Agreements: How do they stand up during the Covid-19 pandemic?”

Law Center student John Ngunjiri, president of the AIPN Houston chapter, introduced Denison and the other two panelists: John Bridges, executive director of the Association of International Petroleum Negotiators in Houston, and Yuliya Marcer, senior counsel for BP in Houston.

“IRC Sec. 45 Q and Carbon Investment in the Energy Space” was the fourth panel of the conference. Paul Schockett, partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in Washington, D.C, John Lehrer, partner at BakerHostetler in the same city, Michael Rodgers, associate at White & Case in Houston, and Elizabeth McGinley, partner at Bracewell in New York spoke about Internal Revenue Code Section 45 Q.

The succeeding panel evaluated tax incentive applications in transitioning to electrical vehicles and electrical vehicle fleets and compared the issue among Australia, Canada and the U.S.

Diane Kraal, senior lecturer at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia provided the Australian perspective. Duncan McPherson of Bennett Jones’ office in Calgary, and Greg Johnson of Bennet Jones’ Vancouver location, offered the Canadian view. Lastly, Jeff Romero, an associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in Washington, D.C. delivered the United States position.

Sponsors included BakerHostetler, Bracewell, ExxonMobil, Mayer Brown, Skadden, Thompson & Knight and White & Case.

The conference is named for Professor of Practice Denney Wright. After a 42-year career as senior tax counsel with ExxonMobil, Wright joined the Law Center’s faculty in 2017 after serving as an adjunct professor for 20 years, and made it a priority for the school to host an annual event that crossed international borders.

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