Natural Resources Law Curriculum
Introduction to Natural Resources Law
This course introduces students to ASL’s various natural resources law offerings, both to provide a broad base of knowledge to interested students and to inform students who may be considering the natural resources law certificate or master’s degree.
The goal of the course is to familiarize students with the legal, business and environmental aspects of the natural resources law. Although broadly covering natural resources, the course will include a basic introduction to the U.S. legal and governmental system relating to environmental, natural resource and energy laws, including hard mineral law, oil and gas law, water law, environmental law, energy policy, land use law, renewable energy law and issues related to climate change and sustainability.
Examines the specialized property rules governing estates in natural resources, the correlative rights of surface and mineral owners, and the rights to explore, mine and extract, develop, and transport natural resources, with primary emphasis on "hard" minerals. As a compliment to existing courses in Administrative and Environmental law, the course examines selected issues of natural resources regulation from the perspective of the regulated community
Sustainable Energy Law
Explores the significant challenges facing the energy industry, including climate change, energy independence and security, traditional pollution, regulatory burdens, jobs, energy prices, "peak" supply, and increased energy demand. The class covers the international climate regime; national energy and environmental policy; coal law and policy; natural gas law and policy; transportation and oil; nuclear and renewable energy; and legislation and litigation. Students represent nations in mock climate treaty negotiations; debate the "hot" energy issues of the day; and advise "clients" on energy-related regulations and agreements. Readings are compiled from source documents (treaties, regulations, laws and court decisions), government and industry studies and reports, and current commentary.
Oil and Gas Law
Applies property law and contract law principles to a complex natural resource, and evaluates resource rights from the perspective of the developer, the property owner, and the regulator. ASL is in the Marcellus shale region, one of the largest shale plays in the U.S. With U.S. oil and gas production exploding, and world demand and competition for natural resources growing, students are exposed to a growing area of law in need of lawyers who can serve as effective advocates, problem solvers and negotiators. Topics include the creation of mineral property interests in oil and gas, how those interests differ from other forms of real property, and how they are conveyed. Students evaluate oil and gas lease provisions, the principal instruments for transferring oil and gas rights. The course may require review and/or drafting of contracts, legal memorandums, and transactional documents. The course makes use of speakers who serve as in-house counsel for energy companies and utilities, and/or practitioners in the natural resource industry.
Examines selected topics in the law governing the protection of air, water, and land from pollution. Class sessions cover: (1) brief overviews of the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act; (2) the impact of Climate Change on the permitting process; (3) additional areas of environmental law having regional connections, including mine permitting and regulation; (4) competing conceptual approaches to environmental regulation; (5) the political and bureaucratic aspects of environmental regulation as a model of regulation generally; (6) emerging notions of environmental justice; and (7) the role of citizen enforcement, including the implications of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions dealing with the issue of standing.
Water Resources Law
Examines regulation of water systems by states and the federal government. Water is arguably our most important natural resource. This course explores increasing water scarcity, degraded water quality, stresses to watersheds, and public water supply issues stemming from aging infrastructure, global issues like international trade, management of waters shared with Mexico or Canada, and global warming. Policies governing water allocation and conservation are some of the most critical in our society. Topics also include the public trust doctrine, water allocation, pollution control, floodplains and wetlands conservation, storm water controls, "factory farms," endangered species preservation, and ecological restoration. When possible and relevant, speakers will be invited to present specific material to the class concerning current issues in water management and protection.
Coal and Mineral Law
Familiarizes students with the legal, business and environmental side of the coal and hard mineral law. Although broadly covering the industry, the course will specifically prepare and introduce students to focus on the nature of ownership of subsurface minerals; methods of transferring ownership; property rights; partition among co-owners; analysis of leasehold estates, rights and duties; coal mining rights and privileges; regulatory and environmental issues; and administrative processes. The course will require the drafting of legal memorandums and pleadings, oral presentations, and advocacy skills. The course makes use of speakers who serve as in-house counsel for energy companies and utilities, and/or practitioners in the natural resource industry.
The Law of Renewables
Examines the laws and policies designed to promote renewable energy development. Students review existing renewable energy technologies and the practical limitations on their development, siting and integration into the U.S. electricity grid. Students then explore the dominant renewable energy laws, including subsidies and tax credits, renewable portfolio standards, feed-in tariffs and net metering. While the primary focus is the regulation and development of renewable energy projects, students also explore the renewable energy policy arena and its implications, and the mechanics and issues associated with financing energy projects. Finally, the course also addresses legal, policy and economic and financing issues associated with the expansion and improvement of the transmission grid to support renewable energy development. While the focus is on renewable energy development in the U.S., some comparative examples of renewable energy policies used in other countries will be considered.
Environmental Dispute Resolution Practicum
Explores the characteristics of environmental and natural resource disputes, how they arise, and how we choose to resolve them. The course examines the range of resolution options available, from rights-based approaches (litigation, appellate advocacy and arbitration) to interest-based approaches (consensus building, mediation, collaborative governance and group facilitation). Students practice and explore the skills needed to use collaborative practices in typically adversarial interactions. This skills course relies heavily on simulations involving resource disputes taken from current headlines, such as those involving endangered species of the Upper Clinch River Valley, mountain top mining permits granted in Central Appalachia, and ridgeline placement of wind farms. It will also examine the approach taken by the administrator of the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster Victim Compensation Fund.
Real Estate Transactions Practicum
Focuses on how commercial and residential real estate is conveyed. Lecture will discuss legal theories of title, transfer, and ownership issues. Students will prepare written projects that will require research of title records, statutes, and precedent. Projects will follow real property as it is conveyed, mortgaged, leased and foreclosed. Condominium issues and mineral rights transfers will be addressed. Students will work with a local attorney to gain experience in current issues. Skills elements of this course include real estate title search; drafting of purchase and sales agreements, deeds, mortgages, UCC statements, closing settlement statements, and leases; drafting and review of easements, attachments, and other encumbrances; and drafting and scheduling of foreclosure sale.