Friday, August 6, 2010

Guest Contributor Genevieve Shope, Master's Student and Petroleum Engineer, Writes About Working in the "Oil Field"

Working in the oilfield is generally perceived as the gushing derricks of Texas, with workers covered in grease and crude throwing around large tools and pieces of equipment. Times have changed since those days as technology and safety have advanced within the industry.

I have had the privilege to be a part of working in two of the most well known areas of exploration and production in the world, the North Slope of Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. Although the majority of the work in Alaska is on land or man-made islands, there are offshore operations that have been going on for many years in the Cook Inlet and more recently the Arctic Ocean.

Working offshore, from being the cleaning crew to the man in charge, is tough and takes a strenuous toll on workers and those closest to them. Many of the people who work in the Gulf work on a rotational schedule. Imagine missing holidays, birthdays, even just the smallest events that many take for granted. That is one of the sacrifices one makes to work in an industry full of challenges to get the petroleum that the world consumes every day. Although I never spent a birthday at home and only had 5 holidays off in slightly over 5 years, the challenges of the work were my driving force. To be able to say I worked in -40 degree temperatures without windchill to working in the Gulf of Mexico, the "family" you make at work keeps you going day in and day out.

For a female, there are a few obstacles that are encountered along with the already demanding tasks at hand. One that I found multiple times was the lack of accommodations for a woman aboard many of the platforms. There is, however, always work that needs to be done so this did not stop me from being busy. Another is gaining the respect of some tough, grouchy, hard headed workers who must listen to a women college graduate tell them what to do. Overall the experience is amazing.

Concerns over safety were always brought to the forefront of every task and pounded in a worker’s head from the moment he or she was hired. What has occurred in the Gulf is tragic and has given a safe and environmentally conscious industry a horrible name. There is no question that the world cannot operate without petroleum, so the domino effect of the BP tragedy will disperse throughout all companies who operate in the industry.

All companies, including the service company I work for, go through paperwork and meetings multiple times everyday to ensure that safety measurements are met. At times the joke can be that more time is spent on the paperwork than on actually working on the well. But at the end of the day everyone wants to walk away with all five fingers on each hand, and all five toes on each foot and go safely back to their families.

Genevieve Shope
B.S. in Petroleum Engineering, Colorado School of Mines

Master of Resource Law Studies Student, Sturm College of Law

[Editor's note: Ms. Shope began her petroleum career in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, where she worked in the coiled tubing department. Later she was promoted to a cell leading position in Maurice, Louisana. In that position she was responsible for her firm's coiled tubing, nitrogen, and small pumping operations in the Gulf of Mexico. In the picture above, Ms. Shope (the person looking up) is on the back of a coiled tubing rig in Alaska.]

Thursday, August 5, 2010

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor to Visit Sturm College of Law on Aug. 26; Will Meet With Students, Faculty, Judges

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor will visit the Sturm College of Law on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.

Justice Sotomayor will meet with high school, college and law students from 1 to 2 p.m. and then attend a reception from 2 to 3 p.m.

Justice Sotomayor took the judicial oath for her U.S. Supreme Court seat on Aug. 8, 2009.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Light Rail Moves Ahead in Denver as Mile High City Sets Pace for Public Transport Development in the West

Without question, Denver -- also known as the Mile High City in reference to its altitude of 5,280 feet above sea level -- is known far and wide as a leader in the renewable energy sector. But what is perhaps less well known is the commitment the city and the Denver metropolitan area have made to building out an impressive and expansive light rail system.

I was reminded of this recently when I drove from Denver west to Golden, a city of perhaps 20,000 at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. As one leaves Denver and begins to drive west on U.S. Highway 6 the highway is surrounded on the north and south by houses and retail developments. However, the farther west you drive it becomes apparent that this corridor will soon be served by a 12.1 mile light rail rail running from Golden to the Denver and ultimately to what will be the regional transportation hub in downtown Denver.

The photos attached to this blog show various bridges that are currently under construction as builders focus on completing the West Corridor project before Jan. 1, 2013. For more information on the West Corridor project, please click here. Moreover, there are other planned lines in the process of being developed.

To be sure, building out a light rail system in a metropolitan area that is in many places already developed is a tall order. There are no shortage of controversies related to the cost of the system and the priority of which lines should be built first. But suffice it to say, Denver and the surrounding area are well along in making the city one of the most transit friendly locales in the American west.

One of the reasons to point this out here is that it reflects the vibrant, forward looking attitude shared by many in Colorado. The energy and vitality illustrated in this project captures, in just one way, the culture and investment in the future that students find in Denver and in Colorado. Living and studying in a city and region with high aspirations gives all of us hope that our transport future will look better than the reality of today's transport options. This is vital to protecting and preserving the Colorado and western way of life, portrayed in the final photo taken of the foothills just a few miles north of where the West Corridor is being developed.

Denver as a city and a "state of mind" are on the move and part of the overall excitement here is reflected in the high quality of environmental and natural resources offerings at the Sturm College of Law.

--Don Smith

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Denver Plays Host to Major Western Hemisphere Discussion About Energy and Climate Change as Part of 2010 Biennial of the Americas

A remarkable group of leaders from the Western Hemisphere assembled recently in Denver at "The Americas Roundtable on Energy and Climate Change."

The roundtable drew nearly 1,000 attendees who heard from high-level representatives from government, industry, non governmental organizations, and citizen stakeholder groups from throughout the hemisphere.

The Roundtable was part of the Biennial of the Americas 2010, an event that the city of Denver hopes to convene every two years to celebrate and inspire collaborations among the 35 countries that make up the Western Hemisphere. Jim Polsfut, President of the Biennial of the Americas, introduced the Roundtable by saying that it was designed "to showcase the potential of building relationships in the hemisphere" to address energy and climate change issues.

The introduction to the Roundtable set out, in vivid terms, why energy and climate changes issues really are matters of hemispheric importance:

"Of the many ties that could bind the Western Hemisphere together more closely, energy production is surely one of them. The hemisphere has tremendous resources. Canada, Mexico, and Venezuela supply the U.S. with more than 40 percent of its crude oil. The U.S. and Colombia are among the top coal producers in the world, and Brazil is the world leader in producing and using ethanol as a transportation fuel."

Among the most interesting speakers and points they made:
  • Carolina Barco (who incidentally biked to the event in her dress suit, thus proving, as she said, that woman can also bike to work), Colombian Ambassador to the U.S.: The electric power grid must be developed over the entire hemisphere so power can be moved from energy-rich to energy-poor regions; "Colombia is taking the lead on this by delivering energy to Central American countries" that need it
  • Gary Doer, Canadian Ambassador to the U.S.: Transmission lines for renewable energy need to co-exist with transmission lines from "traditional sources" of electricity; there also needs to be honesty with ratepayers about the increased cost of implementing renewable energy
  • David Eves: president of Xcel of Colorado: Power plants represent a 50 to 60 year investment for electricity generators; consequently, the power utilities must be able to accurately anticipate the environmental requirements as far into the future as possible, thus allowing the companies to make more informed investment decisions
  • Ray LaHood, U.S. Secretary of Transportation (who also biked to the event): Nearly 70 percent of America's oil use is transport-related; high-speed rail is coming to the U.S., with the Obama Administration vision that by 2035 80 percent of Americans will be connected by high-speed intercity rail
  • Lee McIntire, chairman and CEO of CH2MHill Consultants: "We are just beginning to wake up to the water issues" the world faces; up to one billion people a day carry fresh water at least 1/4 mile to their homes
  • Sally Ranney, CEO of StillWater Preservation LLC: Land use must be considered in the context of renewables development as well as transmission siting issues
  • Bill Ritter, Governor of Colorado: "We think Colorado has designed a 'template' for green energy policy and developing the green energy industry"
  • Enrique Penalosa, president of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy in Colombia and former mayor of Bogota: Light rail or underground systems are too expensive for many countries; "bus systems are the way to go" in terms of providing transportation solutions
  • Jeff Wojahn, president USA division of EnCana Natural Gas: Natural gas can be a significant solution, but not the only solution, to providing another source to power transport, especially for cars
The program's final comments were made by Mr. Penalosa, who pointed out that the issue of moving people within cities had to be a major theme for the 21st century adding, "For 5,000 years, cities were all pedestrian. It has only been in the last 80 or 90 years that we have introduced cars into cities." He added, "If cities had hundreds of miles for pedestrians and bikes, it would completely change the way city life is organized."

In reflecting on the roundtable and the issues that were discussed, I thought about the Environmental and Natural Resources Law (ENRL) program at the Sturm College of Law and a number of observations came to mind:
  • Building a more collaborative and stronger relationship among the countries in the Western Hemisphere makes perfect sense; the shared sense of history, cultures, values, and hopes for the future underpin all people in the Western Hemisphere
  • The range of energy and climate change-related issues under discussion at the Roundtable are almost exactly the same ones that the ENRL focuses on: without going into exhaustive detail, the ENRL offers excellent courses in: Climate Change; Energy Law; Land Use Planning; Oil & Gas (U.S. and International); Renewable Energy Project Finance; Renewable Energy Policy; Sustainable Development; Water Law (U.S. and International), and there are many more
  • The College of Law has two outstanding publications that address many of the related issues: University of Denver Transportation Law Journal; University of Denver Water Law Review
  • The College of Law has established a pioneering effort called "Lawyering in Spanish," which assists students who will be serving Spanish-speaking clients
  • The College of Law has developed a Latin American externship program with many of the finest firms and lawyers on the continent
  • And finally, the College of Law has attracted many of the hemisphere's "best and brightest" -- from the north and the south -- to study about these issues. Among American law schools, DU consistently ranks among the top echelon of environmental and natural resources law schools. In addition, the ENRL master's of law program has attracted many of Latin America's brightest young lawyers and professionals who study in Denver and then return home with the aim of using what they have learned to improve policy making and business practices
The point is that the issues that were the subject of the Roundtable's discussion are clearly of fundamental importance in today's world. All of us have a stake in the successful consideration of these issues.

We at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law are actively involved in examining these issues and in building bridges among our hemispheric neighbors. Is everything in the neighborhood perfect? Do all the neighbors get along? Of course not. But on the other hand, what the panel talked about last week and what the ENRL is trying to do now is move the discussion forward knowing full well that no one has all the answers.

More than 60 years ago, Europe lay in tatters after the devastation of World War II. Many thought western Europe was finished as a political and economic world leader. But one man -- Jean Monnet -- envisioned an idea to bring Western Europe together: the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community. The concept was to address, on a regional basis, a key issue -- that is the coal and steel economic sectors -- that could be organized to benefit the entire continent. Many said he would not succeed. But in fact he did, trust was built, and today's Europe is peaceful and prosperous.

Now for just a moment imagine that the Western Hemisphere could also see its interests as one -- in this case safe, secure, dependable, clean, and affordable energy. Imagine that countries could work together in close collaboration for the betterment of the entire hemisphere. A far out idea? Perhaps for today. But just as the Roundtable demonstrated, the hemisphere's leaders are thinking about the future and it may be far different from what anyone sees today.

In other words, great opportunities may well lie ahead for those who are well informed, thoughtful, prepared, and open to new ideas.

--Don Smith
Director, Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program

Monday, August 2, 2010

Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation Announces Spring 2011 Scholarship Competition for Students Interested in Natural Resources Law

The Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation (RMMLF), one of the world's best known organizations bringing together practitioners involved with natural resources issues, has announced its Spring 2011 Scholarship Program.

The program provides financial support for students who "have the potential to make significant contributions to scholarship in natural resources law," according to the RMMLF.

Sturm College of Law full-time students who can "demonstrate a commitment to study natural resources law or who (are) undertaking the study of natural resources law" are eligible to apply for a scholarship. Spring 2011 tuition scholarships may cover partial or full tuition costs only. Recent awards have ranged from $1,500 to $11,000.

The criteria for selection include:
  • Potential to make a significant contribution to the field of natural resources law
  • Academic ability
  • Leadership ability
  • Year in law school
  • Financial need
Applications, which are due by Oct. 1, 2010, will be evaluated by the RMMLF Scholarships Committee.

Don Smith, Director of the Sturm College of Law Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program (ENRL), encouraged all interested students to consider applying. "Over the past few years, DU has been honored to have several of our students awarded with RMMLF scholarships. For example, this fall two students -- Chelsey Russell, who is seeking her JD degree, and Bhagyast Nilange, who is seeking her LLM degree -- have won scholarships. Besides the monetary award, student winners are able to note on their resumes that they have been recognized with one of these very prestigious awards."

For more information about the scholarship competition please click here. Applications can be downloaded by clicking here. DU students can also contact Mr. Smith or ENRL Assistant Director Lucy Daberkow.