Saturday, October 23, 2010

View From Our Neighborhood: Autumn in the Colorado Rockies

If you have never seen a buffalo up close, come to Colorado. There is a wonderful viewing area just west of Denver and about 25 minutes by car from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law where you can often see an impressive heard of the animals.

The heard is located adjacent to Interstate 70 near the Genesee Park exit (number 254) as one heads into the Colorado Rockies. Of course, there are lots of other great scenes as well in autumn and in all seasons in America's Centennial State (so named for entering the U.S. in 1876).

Visitors sometimes think that the buffalo continue to roam freely around the state, but those days are now gone. However, you can see big horn sheep, elk, and deer, particularly in the state's mountain areas.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Renewable Energy and Transmission Expert Ronald L. Lehr to Speak at Sturm College of Law on Oct. 27

Ronald L. Lehr, an expert on renewable energy and transmission policy, will speak about "Renewables and Transmission" from 12 noon to 1 p.m. in room 190 on Oct. 27 at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

Mr. Lehr, who served for seven years from 1984-1991 as Chairman and Commissioner of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, practices law and consults about energy regulation and business matters. Among his current assignments include work for the American Wind Energy Association on public policy and transmission issues for wind energy, the Interwest Energy Alliance on market development for large scale renewable energy in a six state western region, and Western Grid Group on western grid level system and transmission planning.

He also works for private firms on renewable energy policies and commercialization strategies. He has appeared as an expert witness, sponsoring testimony in administrative venues on utility planning and mergers, and in anti-trust, employment, and government claim litigation.

The event is being sponsored by the Land Use Law Society.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Relationship of Forest Fires and Ecosystem Health: Environmental Law Professor Fred Cheever Explains Importance of Fire to Forest Health

University of Denver Sturm College of Law Environmental Law Professor Fred Cheever was interviewed recently on a topic that is fundamental -- although often controversial -- to the health of forest ecosystems: fires in forested areas.

Professor Cheever, who also serves as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, noted that forest fire suppression efforts over nearly 100 years have resulted in a great deal of "fuel" in the form of dead trees. When burned, however, these trees create a multitude of nutrients for forest ecosystems.

Please click here to see the interview with Professor Cheever, one of the country's leading experts on environmental law, on Denver's TV 9 News.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

U.S. to Compete With Middle East and Russia in Selling Natural Gas? With Shale Gas the Unthinkable Becomes Very Possible

As unthinkable as this would have been several years ago, the U.S. may be headed for a position as a seller -- rather than a buyer -- of natural gas.

This major change comes in the wake of emerging new technologies that are making the extraction of U.S. shale gas more realistic.

According to a recent story in the Financial Times ("U.S. to Take on Rivals in Natural Gas," Oct. 7, 2010), the time may be nearing when U.S. firms are exporting rather than importing natural gas. According to James Crandell, an analyst at Barclays Capital, "North America is gearing up to export gas to the rest of the world," the FT reported.

Moreover, a new report published in September 2010 by the James A. Baker Institute for Public Policy, Emerging U.S. Carbon Management Strategy, suggests:
"Natural gas...stands to play a very important role in the U.S. energy mix for decades to come...By some estimates, a mammoth 1,000 trillion cubic feet is recoverable in North America alone -- enough to supply America's natural gas needs for the next 45 years. The impact of shale gas is already apparent. U.S. import terminals for LNG sit virtually empty, and the prospects that the U.S. will become even more dependent on foreign imports have receded..."
To be sure, there are many questions yet to be resolved regarding how the shale gas is extracted -- through a process called hydraulic fracturing that involves using a mixture of chemicals and water under high pressure to fracture the shale deposits where the gas is trapped. But on the other hand, natural gas emits less carbon dioxide than coal and electricity utilities -- not entirely certain whether or when the U.S. might clamp down on carbon emissions -- may begin to lean towards gas if they feel confident the price will not be subject to unexpected spikes.
What might be expected in the short term is a battle waged between coal and natural gas interests, each trying to protect or grow its respective market share for fuel used by electric utilities. The matter of the environmental safety associated with hydraulic fracturing is likely to play a major role in this debate.

Meanwhile, the possibilities related to shale gas are attracting attention in Europe as well as this blog reported on several months ago ("Shale Gas and Europe: The Answer to Europe's Energy Security Issue?" June 29, 2010).

Stay tuned...

--Don C. Smith

Monday, October 18, 2010

Two Sturm College of Law Students Involved in Ground-Breaking Mining Law Project Sponsored by the International Bar Association

Kristi Disney, a current Environmental and Natural Resources Law LLM student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and recent LLM graduate Jeffrey Cullers have been working on a ground-breaking mining law project – the Model Mining Development Agreement (MMDA).

The MMDA, an undertaking of the International Bar Association (IBA), is a model contract intended as a starting point for negotiations between host governments and mining companies where no mature mining law exists. The project seeks to advance sustainable development of mineral resources by balancing the interests of local communities, governments, and companies.

A key innovation of the MMDA is an online public forum where any interested person can view and comment on the current MMDA draft. Please visit the project at and view the latest draft, released earlier this month. Currently, the MMDA is in the midst of a public comment period until mid-December 2010. After comments are closed, the MMDA creators will incorporate the feedback into the final MMDA draft, to be completed in January 2011. The MMDA is a project of the International Bar Association.

Jeffrey and Kristi worked on this project through the Sustainable Development Strategies Group, a non-profit organization located in Gunnison, CO, which promotes the preservation and responsible use of natural resources.

Jeffrey Cullers graduated from the LLM program in May 2010. Kristi Disney will graduate in May 2011 and is currently a Law Fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for International Environmental Law.