Tracy Hester
Environmental Law in the Oil & Gas Field
LAW 5397
Fall 2017


Environmental Law in the Oil & Gas Field
LAW 5397

Fall 2017




Even with petroleum and natural gas' enormous importance to our modern economy and lifestyle, hydrocarbon development and use remains tightly intertwined with environmental law and liabilities. For every inspiring engineering marvel in oil field development, hydraulic fracturing, and deep sea drilling, a counterbalancing memory arises of the oil-slicked shores of the Gulf Coast, the catastrophe of the Exxon Valdez, and growing fears over climate change caused by fossil fuel development and use. Simply put, a lawyer advising oil and gas interests (or opposing them) simply cannot provide reliable legal advice without an understanding of the environmental limits and liabilities accompanying hydrocarbon development.

This class is not an advanced course, and you do not need to have taken Environmental Law or Oil & Gas Law (although some educational or practical background can be useful). We will not review environmental laws in detail, but will instead seek to understand the environmental issues and practices that affect (or are caused by) the oil and gas industry. Our focus is on practice, real-world application of these legal principles and strategies that you can use to represent stakeholders. We will also examine techniques used to create, comply and enforce environmental laws and regulatory requirements.

One of this class' main goals is to improve your ability to be a valued and effective team member of your current or future environmental clients. Some of those clients may be your friends and family that have environmental issues with one or more of the millions of oil and gas wells drilling in the United States. We will focus on U.S. environmental laws as a result, but we may digress in class discussions to the development of environmental law in other oil and gas producing countries.


This class will not use a textbook. Instead, we will provide materials from this website and handouts in class. As background reading, I recommend Federal Environmental Law - The User's Guide by Olga Moya and Andrew Fono.

If you are interested in practicing in this area, we will also provide a set of supplemental reference materials for purchase or check-out at the Law Library reference desk. 


Our class reading assignments will follow the course syllabus listing. Of course, you should read each day's assigned materials in advance and be prepared to discuss them in class. If we need to adjust the reading assignments, I'll be sure to announce the changes in class and post them to the class website as quickly as possible.


Pursuant to the Law Center's policies and ABA requirements, you will need to attend at least 80% of the classes to receive credit for this class. While we won't take daily attendance, you will have to verify on your final examination that you have complied with the Law Center's rules and attended at least 80% of class sessions. We also reserve the right to adjust your final grade to reflect class attendance if you miss more than four classes (i.e., 80%).

If we need to cancel any classes, we will reschedule a make-up class as soon as possible. According to the Law Center's policy, we will likely hold the make-up class on a Friday.


Please be prepared to discuss the readings assigned for that day. We will call on students, and will expect that you have completed the assigned reading. Of course, you can also volunteer comments and questions.

We will adjust grades by one notch (i.e., a half-grade) based on class participation. It works both ways - you can raise your grade with energetic and insightful participation, or you can lower it by consistently failing to prepare adequately for class.


Your grade will come primarily from a final examination. The open-book examination will consist solely of essay questions, and will have a page limit. We will discuss the specific format of the examination towards the end of the semester in a review session.

As per Law Center policy, we reserve the right to make adjustments to grades based on attendance and class participation. This adjustment can be upward or downward.


My office is located at Faculty Suites TU-II in office 142. You can reach me during my regular office hours at 2:00 to 4:30 pm on Tuesdays, and you can call me to schedule a meeting at any other convenient time (including evening hours). You can also reach me at 713-743-1152 (office) or at .