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Published March 24, 2020
Students in the energy, environment and natural resources track at the College of Law, as well as students from the School of Energy Resources Professional Land Management (PLM) program are active participants in the Wyoming energy industry.
As closely related as the legal and land management professions are, learning through practical experience is an advantage enjoyed by law students and land students alike.
Under the direction of Professor Tara Righetti of the College of Law, and with the support of Kris Koski (J.D., ’08), Associate Lecturer at the School of Energy Resources, students in both programs have ample opportunity to interact with each other, as well as gain valuable first-and experiences through visits to governing and regulatory entities, as well as resource extraction sites. The purpose of these tours is to build upon the concepts learned in the oil, gas, and mineral law coursework.
“In order to work in the land and law professions, one must have an understanding of the technical process of a proposed project, and the ability to explain the requirements and necessities in the process of negotiation,” explains Koski. “Opportunities for new professionals to tour and learn about such processes can be limited in the work world, so we try to facilitate these opportunities for our students to learn on the ground.”
On March 10, 2020, students from the University of Wyoming had one such opportunity. They attended the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (WOGCC) hearings in Casper, to witness first-hand how the industry operates and is regulated in Wyoming.
Tasked primarily with the regulation of oil and gas in the state of Wyoming, the WOGCC oversees the development and management of Wyoming’s oil and gas resources, and provides appropriate environmental stewardship for Wyoming citizens through monthly hearing sessions.
In addition to seeing various regulatory issues on the docket, students had the opportunity to network with practitioners, and see current law students representing the Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources (EENR) Clinic, present show cause enforcement actions to the Commission.
A partnership between the College of Law and the Attorney General’s Office, the EENR Clinic gives third year law students an opportunity to participate in hands-on projects with state agencies.
Third-year law students Connor Thompson, Terisa Oomens, and Tayler Heintz each demonstrated their ability to navigate applicable rules and statutes as they pertained to specific legal issues.
Assistant Attorney General Eric Easton has been working with the EENR Clinic students since 2014.
“We hope this gives the students a perspective on the procedural and substantive issues the staff consider before coming before the Commission,” he says. “We have found the EENR student to be well prepared and engaged in the process. This is often the first time students have the opportunity to appear before a governmental agency, and the Commission members enjoy interacting with the students, especially knowing they may appear before them in the future.”
Prior to visiting the WOGCC, Professor Righetti arranged additional on-site facility visits in the region for the same group of students.
In February, they visited the most advanced, state of the art horizontal drilling rig in the region at a site in Greeley, Colorado with Extraction Oil & Gas. Students learned all about the regulatory side of the operation, including working with individual counties in Colorado following the implementation of Senate Bill 19-181, the health and safety on the rig, as well as the innovative extraction techniques.
In November 2019, students in both programs explored the underground world of the Genesis Alkali mining facility in Green River, Wyoming. As the world’s largest natural soda ash mine and production site, students were able to witness different mining methods, sustainability and reclamation efforts, and compliance and safety implementation for both mining and processing operations. Students met with members of Genesis’ environmental compliance team and learned about royalty determinations.
“It is incredibly beneficial for both the law students and the PLM students to make these site visits,” says Righetti. “With so many facets in energy development and regulation, they provide students with appreciation for the implications of energy law practice and the diverse opportunities for land professionals and lawyers. Moreover, the connections forged together during their respective educations create better-informed and competent practitioners in both fields. Many students walk away from these tours affirmed in their desire to build careers in the energy industry.”
The field tours at Genesis Alkali and Extraction Oil and Gas were arranged with the assistance of UW law alumni, Joe Evers (B.S. ’09; J.D./M.A. ’13) and Boyd McMaster (B.S. ’93; J.D. ’96). Righetti emphasized that the unique access available to UW law and land students owes to strong partnerships with industry and involvement by alumni.
“UW law alumni have been essential to opening these opportunities to students,” says Righetti. “We could not do it without their participation and support.”
The College of Law and the School of Energy Resources remain dedicated to providing these singular experiences for students to develop their professional identity and refine their career path while still in law school.