Monday, November 11, 2013

Denver Law Offers "First of Its Kind" Course on Emerging Issues in Oil & Gas Development

In response to the high level of activity in the Colorado oil and gas sector and the growing need for well-trained oil and gas professionals, Denver Law has just finished a "first-of-its-kind" course entitled "Emerging Issues in Oil & Gas Development."

Co-taught by Noble Energy Lease & Contracts Advisor Jessica Richards and Denver Law Environmental & Natural Resources Law Director Don Smith, the Emerging Issues course focused on a range of key topics involving the rapid development of the industry that has resulted from the increased deployment of fracking and horizontal drilling in Colorado and the U.S. more generally.

Ms. Richards, who has Juris Doctorate and Master's in Resource Law Studies degrees from Denver Law, and Mr. Smith said the Emerging Issues course was not only timely, but also very important in terms of covering a subject matter that has garnered huge attention as the country's oil and gas production has rapidly increased.

"Colorado has received a remarkable amount of attention about these emerging issues because of the state's leadership role in regulating the oil and gas industry as well as the industry's investment in the state" they said.  "This is an attractive state for industry to point to because of their ability to successfully operate in a state that takes pride in its environment.  On the other hand, Colorado's regulations have attracted interest in environmental circles because of the example that resources can be extracted while still addressing environmental concerns."

"Our approach," they said, "was to consider the emerging issues in a fair and reasoned manner.  No one benefits from emotion-laden or careless consideration of these important issues. To be sure, the regulatory climate in Colorado continues to change to address new issues.  But consideration of those changes necessarily must be based on a good understanding of the issues at hand, and that is what we sought to develop in this course."

The objective of the two-weekend, three-credit course was to identify and then analyze the issues that represent both risks and opportunities for the $30 billion Colorado industry.  As part of the course, students learned from a "who's who" of influential actors who are playing major roles as Colorado becomes an increasingly important oil and gas area of activity and is recognized as a leader in the regulation of the industry.

The presenters were:

  • Willam (Bill) Brady, a Denver Law JD alum, Denver Law Adjunct Professor, and Of Counsel at Spencer Fane & Grimshaw
  • Cindy Jennings, Founder and President of Volition Strategies, considered the corporate social responsibility and social license to operate activities that the oil and gas industry is undertaking
  • Catherine Keske, a Ph.D. research economist at the University of Colorado and an Adjunct Professor at Denver Law, covered the economics-related issues dealing with the potential export of liquified natural gas to international markets
  • Sarah Landry, Chief Operating Officer at the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA), spoke about the industry's assessment of business opportunities as well as steps it is undertaking to support a broader dialogue on oil and gas regulation
  • Kevin Lynch, Professor in Denver Law's Environmental Law Clinic, reviewed the Clinic's involvement representing the citizen group "Save Our Longmont"
  • Pete Maysmith, a Denver Law JD graduate and Director of Conservation Colorado, addressed the environmental concerns related to fracking and horizontal drilling as well as his group's advocacy of stronger regulations
  • David Neslin, former Director of the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission and now a partner at Davis Graham and Stubbs, explained the development of Colorado's regulatory regime over the past six years
  • Robert Randall, Deputy Director of the State Department of Natural Resources and one of the key players in the drafting of Colorado's 2008 fracking rules, described the state's role in oil and gas development
  • Craig Rasmuson, a senior executive at Synergy Resources Corporation that operates 284 producing wells in the Denver-Julesburg Basin, spoke about the "business" aspects of oil and gas development
  • Katerina Yared, a senior geologist for oilfield services firm Baker Hughes, discussed horizontal drilling and fracking 

  • The course involved a number of assignments, including student-led presentation simulations to a group of investors about the risks and opportunities associated with investing in several states.

    "This course represented Denver Law's on-going commitment to educate students about the real issues of our time, with the learning aspect involving the top people in this state who are associated with the issues of regulating the sector and protecting the environment," Mr. Smith said.

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