Natural Resource Law Curriculum

ASL offers a Certificate in Natural Resources Law for students who want to practice in the natural resources, energy or environmental field. The cornerstone of the Certificate is our dynamic and exciting Natural Resources Law Curriculum. The program offers several introductory classes, such as Natural Resources Law and Environmental Law, designed to familiarize students with the law and issues. Additionally, ASL offers upper-level classes that allow students a chance to study cutting edge issues like Sustainable Energy, which focuses on the legal implications of policies and technologies that seek to minimize carbon emissions in the development and delivery of energy. Also available is Oil & Gas Law, which examines correlative rights of surface and mineral owners, and the rights to explore, mine and extract, develop, and transportation. ASL continues to innovate its Summer offerings by offering short courses (two-week terms) like the Law of Renewables, Oil & Gas Law and Introduction to Natural Resources.

Introduction to Natural Resources Law

Introduction to Natural Resources Law 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.

Natural Resources

Natural Resources 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

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 energy­related regulations and agreements. Readings are compiled from source documents (treaties, regulations, laws and court decisions), government and industry studies and reports, and current commentary.

Energy Law and Policy

Energy Law and Policy examines the development and current status of energy law in the United States from a policy standpoint. Covering both fossil and renewable sources, the course uses case law and practical exercises to focus on energy transport and delivery systems and their regulation. Utility regulation and the current challenges facing that industry will also be covered in detail.

Energy, Economics, and the Environment

Energy, Economics, and the Environment examines developing legal issues in the energy industry through the lens of economic theory. The course focuses on the environmental issues resulting from energy usage and regulatory schemes. Relevant constitutional law issues will be discussed as well as the complex challenges facing the utility industry and its regulators as renewable energy begins to gain a foothold in the United States. The legal hurdles to effective regulation of transportation form a significant component of the course as well as the role of corporate social responsibility in a heavily regulated industry.

Oil and Gas Law

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 in­house counsel for energy companies and utilities, and/or practitioners in the natural resource industry.

Environmental Law

Environmental Law 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.

Mineral Title Search and Examination

Mineral Title Search and Examination will familiarize and provide the students with an overview of the process of examining mineral titles and rendering legal opinions on title in the context of mineral production and development. Students will gain hands ­on experience by conducting mineral title examinations in regional courthouses as well as drafting title opinions. The course will focus on examining title to Appalachian mineral properties, including natural gas and coal. The course will include a hands­on title search component where students will research the title from public records, learn how to identify conveyances and exceptions, and how to construe a mineral severance deed. The course will cover examining the title and identifying potential problems with the title, such as mortgages, easements, inadequate legal descriptions, improperly acknowledged documents, powers of attorney, foreclosures, bankruptcies, unpaid taxes, deed restrictions and reverters.

Regulation of Energy Markets and Utilities

Regulation of Energy Markets and Utilities will familiarize and provide the students with insight to state and federal utility law and regulation. The students will examine state and federal regulations as well as governmental power over electric, natural gas and oil markets. Students will explore and study administrative law issues, regulatory agencies, and the role of regulation.

Water Resources Law

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

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

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

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

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.

Environmental Science for Lawyers

Environmental Science for Lawyers will explore the basic scientific knowledge lawyers need to understand and apply the law to environmental issues. This 2 ­credit course will address air pollution chemistry, water pollution chemistry, energy sources, and biological systems. For each subject, reading assignments, lecture, group projects, and discussion will allow students to develop a well-­rounded background in the basic scientific concepts behind the laws that regulate our environment. Material will be taught at a level appropriate to students of varying backgrounds. Students will be evaluated on their ability to both understand the basic scientific concept taught and to apply those concepts to relevant law and fact patterns.

Practice Before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regulates certain aspects of the natural gas, electric utility, hydroelectric, and oil pipeline industries. This 2­ credit online course will give a practical overview of FERC’s substantive regulation and internal procedures. It will cover the governing statutes, FERC’s rules of practice and procedure, rehearing and appellate review of administrative decisions, the history of federal regulation of the natural gas industry, the import and export of liquefied natural gas, rule-making for natural gas pipelines, natural gas jurisdictional issues, regulation of public utilities, FERC’s electric restructuring agenda, hydroelectric rule-making, and regulation of oil pipelines.

The course will rely extensively on guest appearances by FERC employees and lawyers who practice before the FERC.  Students will read assigned chapters from a short treatise, listen to online presentations given by the instructor, interact with guest speakers, research a topic of their choice, and ­­ during the final week ­­give a presentation.

Prerequisite: Course is only open to students who have accumulated 28 credits before taking the course