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Published April 14, 2021
By Christine Reed
Each year, students from in the Professional Land Management (PLM) Concentration at the School of Energy Resources (SER) take a field trip to Casper to attend the monthly hearings before the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (WOGCC) and sit in examiner hearings. The day is wrapped up with a tour through the WOGCC offices to meet the staff and hear about their various roles with the agency.
Not surprisingly, due to COVID-19, this was not feasible this year. Nevertheless, instead of canceling it, Professor Tara Righetti of the University of Wyoming College of Law and School of Energy Resources came up with the idea for a remote class and asked the WOGCC to facilitate it.
During March, students in her Advanced Oil and Gas Law class were able to sit in on an examiner hearing that was conducted via conference call while following along to exhibits provided by the parties on the docket.
The students listened in on a hearing with Examiner Frank Ingram about an application for a force pooling application from Vermillion Energy. Present in the hearing was an attorney as well as a landman and a geologist. Students were able to hear first-hand the role the landman played in the hearing and the importance of the work he provided in supporting the application.
Following the hearing, the Commissioner and expert parties remained on the line, offering the students an opportunity to ask questions about the examination process, rules, and even specifics related to the issue that was presented. Students were impressed with the efficiency of examiner hearings and appreciated the opportunity to ask questions of the examiner, attorney, and land and geologic experts.
“Listening to the hearing was really helpful and I was interested to learn what a huge role the landman actually played in the whole process,” says senior PLM student Kyle Walton. “He had clearly done so much of the legwork regarding the title and was on hand to answer any questions that came up in the hearing so it really put things into perspective.”
In addition to sitting in on a live hearing, the WOGCC arranged for students to have access to archived hearings in front of the full commission. Students were able to gain a complete overview of the WOGCC and how it operates by watching issues from the November and December monthly hearings. One of the hearings involved a contested forced pooling issue that students later used in class as a topic to draft their own hypothetical petition to the commission for the promulgation of new rules.
Not all students in the course have been attending class on campus, some have been entirely remote for the duration of the semester. One such student, senior Jordan Remley of Colorado says that the flexibility of the WOGCC allowed her to still benefit from the opportunity while being so far away.
“I am grateful that we had the chance to see how what we are learning in class is applied in real life,” says Remley. “Even from a distance, the real-time observation and discussions with practitioners and professionals in the industry helped to connect the pieces between class and the real world.”
According to Professor Righetti, many courses in the PLM concentration lean heavily on simulation modules and experiential opportunities to enhance the education of the students. Ensuring that these opportunities are still available to students in the program during a global pandemic has evidenced the resilience and strength of degree.
“It is invaluable for students to have the opportunity to observe and participate in administrative proceedings and to learn about conservation regulation directly from agency staff,” says Professor Righetti. “Our annual trip to the WOGCC is a highlight of UW’s oil and gas law and land management programs. Since COVID made it impossible for students to travel to Casper, we are so grateful to everyone at the WOGCC for bringing the commission to UW.”