Thursday, August 15, 2013

Back To School: Exciting New Natural Resource and Environmenal Law Program

This month, the Energy and Mineral Law Institute is featuring Appalachian School of Law on its website.  I have reproduced that lengthy discussion below.   Be sure to check out the link for the upcoming symposium.  It will be terrific. Students may get a discount.  

Our Program

Excitement is growing over the official launch of ASL’s Natural Resources Law Program in 2013.  The NRLP is intended to provide a place for rational discussion, intelligent debate and collaboration by engaging both students and the surrounding community in efforts to balance our very real energy needs with stewardship of our land and natural resources.  

A few years back, ASL formulated a plan to create a nationally-recognized natural resources law program.  The goal was to take advantage of ASL’s location in the heart of Appalachia’s coal and gas fields, to attract high quality students with an interest in this area of the law, to provide a resource both to the surrounding community and to the many energy and mineral employers in the region, and to enhance ASL’s academic reputation.  Now, due to the foundation that has been laid by many dedicated stakeholders, faculty members, Board members, students and friends of ASL, the NRLP is ready to launch.

The Governor’s First Biennial Natural Resources and Energy Law Symposium, hosted by ASL

The NRLP will be formally rolled out the ASL-hosted Governor’s First Biennial Natural Resources and Energy Law Symposium on September 23, 2013 in Abingdon, Virginia.  There, respected legal experts will interact with ASL professors in examining topics relevant to practice in natural resources law, particularly as they relate to the Appalachian region.  The 2013 program will focus on “The Future of Energy,” and bring all sides together for rational discussion about how to responsibly address some of the country’s most pressing energy challenges. Representatives from industry, the environmental community, government, and academia will engage in intelligent debate in an atmosphere of civil discourse on a range of important contemporary topics.  Additional information is available at ASL plans to host such a symposium biennially.

Our Curriculum

The core of the NRLP is its curriculum.  Drawing on ASL’s diverse and highly qualified faculty, all with significant relevant practice experience, the school demonstrated its commitment to the NRLP by greatly expanding course offerings in areas related to natural resources.  Current offerings include:
  • Natural Resources Law
  • Environmental Law
  • Sustainable Energy Law
  • Coal Law
  • Oil & Gas Law
  • The Law of Renewables
  • Real Estate Transactions
  • Environmental Dispute Resolution
  • Water Law
  • Appellate Advocacy – Natural Resources

Our Certificate Program

The deep curriculum allows the NRLP to offer a specialized Certificate in Natural Resources Law, so students can highlight for prospective employers their commitment and knowledge in this area.  To achieve the certificate, a student must complete at least 15 hours of natural resources related coursework with at least a 3.0 grade point average. 

Our Partners

The formal launch also allows the NRLP to highlight other keystones of the Program that have been put in place over the past several years.  ASL’s ongoing relationship with the Energy and Mineral Law Foundation (EMLF), for example, provides opportunities for scholarship awards, continuing legal education and networking with leading energy and mineral practitioners.  

Further, for the past several years, ASL has partnered with Virginia Tech to offer a Certificate of Graduate Studies in Natural Resources; this program reflects the interdisciplinary approach of the NRLP and allows students to take graduate level classes from one of the nation’s premier natural resources programs.

ASL has also built an advisory Task Force of leading attorneys and representatives of the energy industry, the environmental community and regulatory agencies. The Task Force meets regularly and advises ASL on the real-world legal, industrial and environmental landscape in order to develop the strategic direction of the NRLP. 

Of course, none of the NRLP’s ambitious goals can be met without the generous institutional support of ASL and further support from several of its friends.  The NRLP has received over $300,000 in significant gifts from area foundations, industry and individuals to further its mission. The W. Arthur & Frankie Mae (McGlothlin) Street Distinguished Visitor Fund provides for faculty, staffing and program initiatives, and a local foundation issued a matching challenge of $25,000 per year for five years. 

A leading energy company has met the challenge with a $25,000 scholarship; subject to annual review, the scholarship will be renewed for four additional years. An anonymous individual donor celebrated the holidays in December with a $10,000 gift to the NRLP to honor family and friends. In addition, Dominion Energy made a $95,000 grant award to Professor Buzz Belleville to examine wind energy development in Virginia.

Career Benefits of the NRLP

                Between the partnerships ASL has fostered and the training ASL provides, ASL students are finding increasing career opportunities in natural resources, environmental and energy law.  Current and former employers of ASL grads in these areas of law include:
  • Alpha Coal Sales                                                              
  • Mountain Institute
  • Alpha Natural Resources                                              
  • Noble Energy
  • British Petroleum                                                           
  • Penn, Stuart & Eskridge
  • CNX Land Resources                                                       
  • Rhino Energy
  • Creekmore Law Firm                                                      
  • Shell Oil
  • Environmental Protection Agency                           
  • Steptoe & Johnson
  • Equitable Resources                                                      
  • Teco Coal Corporation
  • EQT Production Company                                            
  • VA Dept. of Environmental Quality
  • Frontier Energy Group                                                   
  • Western Land Services
  • Jackson Kelly Wyatt, Tarrant and Combs         
  • Jones & Associates
  • York Professional Land Services
  • The Street Law Firm

Our Student Organizations and Moot Court Teams

Among ASL’s many student organizations, two of its most active are the Energy and Mineral Law Society (EMLS) and the Environmental Law Society (ELS).  Both organizations have organized speakers and panels at ASL.  In addition, EMLS hosted a successful CLE program on black lung in 2013, arranged for student trips to working coal mines, and frequently arranges tree-planting at abandoned coal mine sites on Arbor Day.  ELS hosts an annual “Green Bowl,” a Frisbee football tournament to raise funds.  In the past, those funds have been used to send local high school students to outdoor recreation camps in Roanoke and to purchase a recycling bin for the ASL campus.

ASL students also put out a dynamic Journal of Natural Resources Law (JNRL).  In addition to its own edition, the JNRL partners with EMLF to provide cite-checking and editing for the publication of EMLF’s Annual Institute.  The JNRL will also be publishing a journal of papers from the Biennial Natural Resources and Energy Law Symposium.

ASL fields highly successful moot court teams at competitions in all areas of the law.  Over the past several years, it has sent teams to nationally-recognized competitions in areas of environmental law and energy law.  In 2012, an ASL team reached the semi-finals of the National Energy & Sustainability Moot Court Competition at West Virginia University; in 2013, ASL was the runner-up at the 72-school National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition at Pace University.

Externship, Internship, Summer Courses, and Scholarship Opportunities

ASL has a nationally recognized externship program for students between their first and second years at law school.  In recent years, with the help of the Task Force, ASL has been expanding natural resources law sites for externships.  Over the past year, ASL has more than doubled the number of natural resources and environmental law sites.

In addition, ASL has started a competitive program for placing 2Ls at select natural resources, environmental and energy law sites for paid summer internships.  As a result of the expansion of the externship program, ASL has arranged 11 “premier” internships for rising 2Ls that include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Washington, D.C.;  Bristol Virginia Utilities - Bristol, Virginia;  Joanne Nolte, The Nolte Law Firm, P.C. – Richmond, VA; Josh Baker, Administrative Attorney for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development - Workers' Compensation Division – Nashville, TN; Senator Mark Warner - Abingdon, VA; and Stephen W. Mullins, Stephen W. Mullins, P.C. - Dickenson County attorney for four local water authorities and two non-profit corporations.  

As part of its broader efforts, ASL has begun offering natural resources related summer courses, in order to provide greater curricular choices to ASL students, to allow the students to meet the certificate requirements, and eventually to attract students from other institutions.  Further, thanks to some of the partners listed above, ASL will begin awarding natural resources related scholarships.  This financial support will allow ASL to attract the most qualified students with an interest in natural resources law. 

Our Leadership and Faculty

Key drivers behind the NRLP launch include Program Counsel Dan Caldwell, a Principal and Shareholder of McElroy, Hodges, Caldwell and Thiessen.  Mr. Caldwell oversees the implementation of all aspects of the Program, coordinates the biennial Symposium, and leads efforts to establish relationships with representative consumers of the NRLP. 

The NRLP draws on ASL’s diverse and highly qualified faculty, all with significant relevant practice experience.  
  • Professor Paula Marie Young, a nationally-recognized expert in alternative dispute resolution, is currently teaching Environmental ADR.  
  • Professor Priscilla Harris is ASL’s authority on environmental statutes, and has been teaching environmental law at ASL since before the concept of an NRLP was developed.  
  • Professor Buzz Belleville focuses on energy law and policy, climate change and the law of renewables.  He is working to assure the curricular foundation for the NRLP, advising the various student groups, and representing ASL with Virginia Tech and EMLF.  
  • Professor Derrick Howard teaches the Natural Resources Law seminar and focuses on issues related to water law and environmental human rights.  As head of ASL’s externship program, he is working to expand site offerings and financial assistance for the summer placement of ASL’s natural resources students.  
  • Professor Patrick Baker is ASL’s point person on hard mineral law.  He is also building relationships with professionals in relevant areas including lawyers with mineral rights specialties, corporate counsel for energy companies and representatives of governmental agencies.  
  • Professor Danielle Kiser draws upon her considerable practical experience in mineral title abstracting in teaching real estate transactions.
Our Future

           With this foundation in place, it is easy to see that the future of the NRLP is an exciting one.  The 2013 launch is just the starting point.  In keeping with ASL’s commitment to community service and alternative dispute resolution, a central short-term goal is to develop a legal clinic both to provide a forum for addressing industry and community concerns, and to provide practical experience to ASL’s natural resources law students.  Developing dedicated physical space and the hard technology to support expansion of the NRLP is also on the short list of future plans.  Finally, the keystones described above give the NRLP great flexibility in offering, in the near future, a whole host of advanced opportunities for students. 

           By guiding students through the increasingly complex and ever-changing world of natural resources law, the NRLP will ultimately develop students into effective advocates and problem-solvers.  ASL envisions a place where students can be trained for rewarding careers in all aspects of natural resources law, where attorneys can advocate for the competing interests of natural resources commerce and protection, and where all can meet and find mutually sustainable solutions based on rational thought and cooperation.  

           ASL’s dynamism in launching the NRLP, its first real national initiative, will help secure the success of ASL for years to come.  

For more information, contact Associate Professor Pat Baker. 

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