Friday, May 21, 2010

Graduate Program Students Glauce Santesso Coelho and Matt Wagner Honored at University of Denver Sturm College of Law Awards Ceremony

Earning a graduate degree is no easy task under any circumstances. But earning a graduate degree as well as finishing first in your program in terms of grade point average is an especially impressive achievement.

Today at an all school honors award ceremony, two of our program's students were recognized for finishing first among their peers in terms of grade point average within their respective programs.

Glauce Santesso Coelho, a native of Brazil, was recognized as the LLM student who earned the highest grade point average. Matt Wagner (with me in the first picture), most recently of Washington, D.C., earned the award as the Master's of Resource Law Studies top grade earner. It was my pleasure to present these two awards.

For a graduate program, there can be no finer sense of achievement than to watch the development of students as they gain knowledge and a greater confidence in their field of study. This was certainly the case with Ms. Coelho and Mr. Wagner, both of whom I met early in their studies here and talked with regularly.

To be sure, their paths to DU were different. Ms. Coelho is a Brazilian attorney, who has worked for some of the finest firms in the country. Mr. Wagner came to DU with a degree in journalism and an accomplished career in government relations. They both worked hard, took their studies seriously, and had a range of experiences while they were at DU. Each in his or her own way will make significant contributions in their future professional careers. Moreover, their sense of fairness and curiosity will serve them well.

The event also highlighted the interconnections that all of us who are involved with this program share as members of a fairly close-knit community. I was reminded of this when Cristiana Hess (in the second picture, which is from graduation day, on the right), wife of December 2009 graduate Tuukka Hess, joined Ms. Coelho (on the left) at the ceremony. Their link? They are both from Brazil (although they actually met in Denver)! It constantly amazes me how our community includes so many fine individuals who are sometimes linked in the most unusual ways.

Parabéns to Ms. Coelho and congratulations to Mr. Wagner. Each of you has much to be proud of.

--Don Smith

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Looking Back on the Life and Career of Prof. Erik B. Bluemel, 1977-2009

Just over one year ago, the University of Denver Sturm College of Law lost a colleague and friend, Prof. Erik Bluemel. Some of you may have had Prof. Bluemel in class. He was on the way to becoming an influential American environmental law professor, an observation reflected by the fact that he had published 15 scholarly papers in less than 10 years. His death was an enormous loss to his family and to the entire DU community.

Prof. Justin Marceau, who also teaches at the College of Law, was a one of Erik's closest friends. Last year Prof. Marceau wrote a moving and insightful tribute to Erik Bluemel. You can access it by clicking here.

In the wake of Prof. Bluemel's death the College of Law has established the Erik B. Bluemel International Environmental Law Scholar, a position that focuses on international environmental law and human rights.

In our hectic day-to-day lives, we often pay too little attention to the fragility of life and to the commitment and enthusiasm of those with whom we spend much of our time. In Erik Bluemel we remember a young man who was curious, industrious, and a citizen of the world. Not a bad legacy. Not a bad legacy at all.

--Don C. Smith

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Past and Future of America's High Plains? Wind Power Begins to Take Hold (Again) in Kansas

Trying to predict the future is, of course, not an easy task. Times change. Technology changes. People change.

But recently as I traveled across my home state of Kansas I was struck by the picture at the left. In the foreground is an "old fashioned" windmill, the type that has dotted America's High Plains for decades. These windmills provided the energy for pumping water for cattle and families before the electric grid was installed across the rural parts of the High Plains.

In the background are the newest generation of highly sophisticated wind mills, that are producing power for America's electric grid. These windmills are several in a string that run along the north side of Interstate 70 in the center of the state.

Yesterday and tomorrow captured in one picture. As a native of the Midwest it strikes me that modern wind power may be as important to the economic well-being of Kansas and other High Plains states as were yesterday's wind mills. Whether there is the political will to promote a rapid development of wind power in Kansas and its neighboring states is another matter entirely.

--Don Smith

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Australian Government Proposes Major Tax Hike on the Resources Sector

The center-left Government of Australia has proposed a new tax scheme that involves ratcheting up the taxes paid by the natural resources sector. Among other things the tax scheme will require major resource extracting companies to pay a 40 percent tax on profits.

The government's rationale is that by taxing large operators it will be able to fund programs that assist smaller operators.

Needless to say, the major resource companies were not thrilled with the proposal. For example, Marius Kloppers, BHP Billiton CEO, said,
"The stability and competitiveness of the tax system have been central to the investment in resources in Australia. If implemented, these proposals seriously threaten Australia's competitiveness, jeopardise future investments and will adversely impact the future wealth and standard of living of all Australians."
The next step for the government is to consult with industry about the new proposal.

This is yet another example of how the natural resources industry faces an entire range of challenges, while at the same time looking ahead in a world that is likely to be resources constrained and thus willing to pay higher prices for commodities.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Wilby Caceres Pinedo, 2006 LLM Graduate and Attorney for Peruvian Mining Firm Yanacocha, Visits Sturm College of Law

It is always wonderful to have Sturm College of Law graduate program alums visit us. Recently we had an unexpected, but very welcome visit from Wilby Caceres Pinedo, a 2006 LLM graduate.

While studying here, Wilby earned two specializations: "Environmental Law & Policy" and "Mining Law & Policy."

Wilby serves as Staff Attorney for Minera Yanacocha SRL, located in Cajamarca, Peru. Minera Yanacocha is majority owned by Newmont Mining, which has its headquarters in Denver. Currently Wilby is assigned to provide legal support for the Conga Project, a large copper-gold mining prospect owned by Minera Yanacocha and located at Cajamarca.

Minera Yanacocha is the largest gold mine in South America. Since opening in 1993, more than 26 million ounces of gold have been produced.

Recently Minera Yanacocha received OSHAS 18001:1999 certification recognizing the operation's compliance with rigorous occupational health and worker safety standards.

It was a great pleasure to see Wilby and to remember old times. He was in my Comparative Environmental Law course in the fall semester of 2005.

Muchas gracias a Wilby. Buen viaje a Peru! (Many thanks to Wilby. Safe travels on your return to Peru!)

--Don Smith