DALLAS - Monty G. Humble, a former partner and head of public policy practice at Vinson & Elkins in Dallas, has left the firm to join oilman T. Boone Pickens' alternative energy venture.

Humble will serve as general counsel for Pickens' Mesa Power Group Inc. that is developing wind energy in West Texas.

"We have worked with Monty for the past seven years at Vinson & Elkins, and we believe he's an excellent lawyer," said Robert "Bobby" Stillwell, general counsel at BP Capital, Pickens' hedge-fund operator.

Humble, 56, a policy expert who considers himself "a problem solver more than a specialist in any area of bond law," called the job "an opportunity to do something that would make a difference that was hard to pass up."

Mesa will remain a client of Vinson & Elkins, and "I feel confident that the group that's still at V&E will move forward without missing a stitch," Humble said.

In his role at Vinson & Elkins, Humble worked closely with Pickens in the development of a utility district in Roberts County, Tex., that acquired water rights to the Ogallala aquifer in the Texas Panhandle.

Humble, whose bond practice has included energy, water, health care, economic development, technology, and other areas, began practicing in 1976 after earning his law degree from the University of Texas.

He was a founding partner of the Dallas office of the Houston-based firm that is a leading provider of bond counsel in Texas.

"It's a great loss for us and a great pickup for Boone," an executive at the firm said.

Humble also was president of the National Association of Bond Lawyers from 2004 to 2005.

With just a few voters in the sparsely populated county, Pickens last year engineered the creation of an eight-acre freshwater utility district with power to issue tax-exempt debt and condemn land along the route of a potential water pipeline.

When a buyer is found for water from the aquifer, Pickens expects to parlay a $75 million investment in water rights into $1 billion.

The right-of-way for the water line is expected to also serve as transmission right-of-way for wind power from Pickens' private wind farm that is in development and could cost up to $9 billion. Pickens, whose Mesa Energy business has spun off Mesa Water, has already invested $2 billion in wind turbines.

Humble worked with Pickens on legislation last year that allowed the development of transmission lines from isolated wind farms in West Texas to the major urban areas. The Texas Public Utility Commission this month approved a $5 billion plan to allow the state's public and private utilities to build transmission lines with revenue from ratepayers.

In addition to his personal business venture, Pickens has launched a $50 million campaign to promote his so-called "Pickens Plan" to develop alternative energy, primarily wind power, to lessen the nation's dependence on foreign oil.

The Pickens Plan envisions up to $1 trillion invested in wind farms from the Texas Panhandle to the Canadian border, where wind blows most steadily. Texas has already become the top state in production of energy from wind.

Humble last year authored a bill introduced by state Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, that requires financial advisers on swap transactions to register with the state's securities board, the first bill of its kind to become law.

"There have been several stories in the last couple of years about issuers having been encouraged to enter into large swap transactions that ultimately proved to have pretty sizeable losses embedded in them, and from some people's perspective it seemed like they weren't well-advised to enter into those transactions," Humble said in June 2007, when the bill was signed into law.

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