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Faculty Highlight: Professor Righetti Guides Grant Funded Research

February 8, 2019
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Professor Tara Righetti is heavily involved in securing grants for interdisciplinary research activities at the University of Wyoming. She is the go-to authority on energy law for the University and is sought out for her expertise, her enthusiasm, and her willingness to help advance the mission of important research grants.

Not only does she play an essential role in the advancement of the University as a land-grant institution, she never loses sight of the fact that the education of students is a vital component of each grant-funded endeavor. She is diligent to ensure that students are able to benefit through practical experience, paid research projects, scholarships and other opportunities to advance their theoretical and applied knowledge.

Over the past year and in varying capacities, Professor Righetti has been involved in some major grants and research efforts at UW.

Righetti recently brought in a substantial grant to the University from a private foundation. The grant is intended to support the work of students in both the College of Law and School of Energy Resources, as well as important research on issues related to carbon capture.

The student portion of the grant funds a student research fellow, and supports the prestigious Salt Creek Energy Excellence Scholarship and the Energy Negotiations Competition at the College of Law. Wyoming has excelled in the competition, making a name for itself among dominant energy law schools in Texas by having a team finish in the top tier every year that it has participated.

The research component of the grant will help to facilitate important conversations surrounding carbon capture. As the principal investigator, Righetti is leading a project that will highlight the opportunity for collaboration between industry and environmentalists on achieving global carbon reduction goals. With current third-year law student and Salt Creek Scholar Madeleine Lewis serving as her research fellow, Righetti is producing three policy briefs relative to CO2 Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) as a carbon dioxide reduction technology and tool in climate mitigation. The briefs will describe the existing regulation of EOR, as well as provide a state-by-state overview and informative background for both state and federal lawmakers. Kipp Coddington, the Director of Energy Policy & Economics in the School of Energy Resources, and Associate Lecturer Kris Koski (J.D. ’08) are also collaborating on the policy briefs.

In addition to actively writing grant proposals, Professor Righetti is an integral part of the multi-million dollar grant funding the Wyoming CarbonSAFE Feasibility Project.  During Phase I of the venture, Professor Righetti worked with former student Salt Creek Scholar Casey Terrell (J.D./M.A. ’18) to do the initial legal pre-feasibility analysis. Terrell even based his Master’s thesis in the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources on the research he did with Wyoming CarbonSAFE and continues to engage in research relative to carbon storage in his new role as an associate attorney at Crowley Fleck in Sheridan.

Now that the project has entered Phase II, Righetti is working to assess the carbon storage feasibility on the ground. Righetti is heading the legal portion of the project and overseeing work with external legal consultants in Wyoming. The team will support project’s feasibility assessment by presenting an in-depth analysis of the established legal and regulatory infrastructure in Wyoming and facilitating data acquisition within the proposed project area.

Finally, Professor Righetti has been an integral part of other major research endeavors on campus. Righetti worked with the Energy Regulation Research Group for the School of Energy Resources, publishing an article “Siting Carbon Dioxide Pipelines” in the Oil and Gas, Natural Resources and Energy Journal through the University of Oklahoma College of Law. She also worked with a team of researchers in the College of Engineering on an EPSCoR Track 2 grant project. The project is exploring the impacts of bio-energy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) to reduce carbon emissions consistent with limiting global temperature increases.

Through both of these collaborative efforts, Righetti was able to facilitate opportunities for law students to participate in the research process as well. Cole Gustafson (J.D. ’18) was a student intern on the SER Energy Regulation Research grant, and third-year student Mick Bondi worked with the EPSCoR research team. The experience was not only helpful in subsidizing the cost of their education, but also provided valuable skills in analytical research.

“I have worked really hard to find interdisciplinary and multi-faceted opportunities that are inclusive to students, while advancing the land-grant mission of the University and supporting topics that are important to the state,” says Righetti. “Being able to work on several projects that are interwoven in my area of expertise has been tremendous. Moreover, I’m pleased that they are encouraging student-driven research and supporting our students directly and indirectly through scholarships and support of enrichment activities.”

The College of Law is extremely proud of the effort Professor Righetti puts forth to engage in outside research, cooperate with external entities, and bring new resources to the law school. Through these initiatives she helps to position the University (and its students) as a leader in the increasingly important fields of energy exploration and climate mitigation.

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