Friday, September 13, 2013

Student Organizations: Energy and Mineral Law Society

Mission Statement
The Energy and Mineral Law Society promotes the educational and professional advancement of its student members in the practice areas of Energy and Mineral Law in primarily three ways:
  • By soliciting co-curricular educational and employment opportunities for its members;
  • By facilitating occasions for fraternity and association within these specialized legal communities; and
  • By encouraging the faculty and administration of the Appalachian School of Law to offer an elective curriculum that explores energy and mineral law -- including natural gas, coal, wind, and other forms of energy -- as applicable to prospective practitioners.   
This organization has helped bring about these goals, especially the last goal.  I talked about the exciting natural resource curriculum at the Appalachian School of Law here.  So much has changed at the school since 2009, when students founded this organization.  

Natural Resource Curriculum

ASL now offers a seminar in Natural Resources that 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. 

A seminar in Environmental Law allows students to examine selected topics in the law governing the protection of air, water, and land from pollution. 

A practicum in Sustainable Energy focuses on the legal implications of policies and technologies that seek to minimize carbon emissions in the development and delivery of energy. 

A practicum on Environmental Dispute Resolution teaches students group facilitation techniques that permit a collaborative approach to solving environmental and energy-related problems.  Students negotiate four simulated disputes.  They involved the regulation of an industrial pollutant; damages caused by the "whiskey fungus"; the reintroduction of the red wolf to the central Appalachian Mountains; and the siting of a wind farm in Tazewell County, Virginia.  

Additionally, ASL recently offered a summer school course in Coal and Mineral Law.

Vision Statement
The EMLS Constitution also provides:  
It is our sincerest hope that, as students of Appalachian School of Law, we may take direction from the foundational guidelines of our school in being intently focused on the issues important in our own geographic area, while also realizing their broader national and global significance. In specializing our studies -- and perhaps later our practices -- on the geographic and economic characteristics unique to the Appalachian region, we hope not only to advance our own professional interests, but also those of our nation as a whole.  This [goal] will be especially important in the coming years as the world struggles to meet the energy and materials needs of an ever-burgeoning population hungry for the benefits of an industrialized, technologically-advanced society. 
As future lawyers, we know that we can play an important role in the success of our nation's energy and mining policies, perhaps even in forming, directing, and implementing those policies ourselves, whether by government oversight or corporate application.  Familiarizing ourselves with Energy and Mineral Law now, before finishing law school, will help to ensure our success later as practitioners.  
Some of the Alumni  Working in the Natural Resource Industry

ASL is proud to boast successful alumni who are working in Natural Resources law. 

Among them is Troy Nichols '04, who recently joined Alpha Coal Sales Co. LLC, a subsidiary of Alpha Natural Resources, Inc., as corporate counsel. Alpha is a Fortune 500 company and ranks as the world's fifth-largest supplier of coal and third-largest supplier of metallurgical coal. Before joining Alpha, Troy practiced at Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs in Lexington, Kentucky, where he served as a senior associate and was a member of the firm's Natural Resources & Environmental Service Team. 

Blair N. Wood '10 practices with the Creekmore Law Firm in Blacksburg, Va. The firm's business litigation practice helps in the defense of oil, gas, and coalbed methane litigation across Virginia and West Virginia. Wood was president of the Energy and Mineral Law Society while at ASL and graduated first in her class.

ASL grad, Cory Vicars, serves as a Senior Land Representative for Land Surface Operations for Shell Exploration & Production in Pennsylvania.  His work ties to natural gas production from the Marcellus and Utica Shale deposits.

William Estes '12 deals with timber issues on a  regular basis and represents a national wildlife conservation organization in discussions with the U.S. Forest Service on an issue pertaining to the ruffled grouse, timber, and land management.

ASL graduate, Brandon Music, represents two energy companies (an electric and municipal energy company) and recently filed a lawsuit involving the ownership of a $100 million energy plant.

In addition, Jason Little '04 and Joel Baker work for Noble Energy in Pittsburgh in its Oil and Gas Exploration and Production division.  Stephanie Roser Skeen works for Western Land Services in Cannonsburg, PA assisting clients in developing various oil and gas plays.  Her husband, Broc Skeen, also an ASL graduate, works for EQT Corporation in oil and gas exploration and production.  Jen Shaver '09 works with the Virginia Gas Owners Litigation Group in Abingdon, VA.  This list is by no means inclusive. 

Another grad, Ian McCabe, works as an associate attorney for Peoples Appalachian Center for the Environment.  The organization strives to protect the natural environment of Appalachia by enforcing state and federal environmental laws and through public outreach and education. It annually co-sponsors the Appalachian Public Interest Environmental Law Conference held each fall.

EMLS Activities

Each member of the ASL EMLS chapter can participate in various conferences around the Appalachian region that deal with energy issues. It sponsors on-campus speakers and field trips to local energy-related operations, including the Jewell Coal and Coke Plant  and the Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center, one of the cleanest coal-fired power stations in the U.S.  
The EMLS also hosts a variety of community service projects for students at ASL, including one tied to elk restoration projects located on nearby reclaimed strip mine properties.

Students working on the Arbor Day Project at ASL, in which EMLS plays a role, plant hundreds of trees on abandoned strip mining sites, including blight-resistant American Chestnut trees that were once native to this area.
The Energy and Mineral Law Society is a sister organization to the Energy and Mineral Law Foundation.  Accordingly, upon graduation, ASL students can participate in CLE (Continuing Legal Education) classes sponsored by the Energy and Mineral Law Foundation.   Most recently, the school, with the help of the EMLS, offered a CLE program on black lung law.

For more information, follow the EMLS at its blog.

Professor Mark Belleville serves as the faculty advisor for the EMLS. 

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