NAFTA renegotiation, climate change policy take center stage at UH Law Center's North American energy symposium

University of Houston Law Center Dean Leonard M. Baynes, right, moderates a panel during the 2nd Annual North American Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Conference.

University of Houston Law Center Dean Leonard M. Baynes, right, moderates a panel during the 2nd Annual North American Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Conference.

May 21, 2018 -- Oil and gas experts from academia, business and politics examined potential problems and solutions to present and future energy issues at the Second North American Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Conference at Partnership Tower in downtown Houston.

Co-sponsors for the two-day titled, "North American Energy and Environmental Policy in Transition" included Blank Rome, LLP, and the University of Calgary Faculty of Law.

"From NAFTA, to climate policy, pipelines to LNG, the electric grid to Mexican energy privatization, there has never been a more exciting and yet precipitous time in the energy integration of North America, and the continuing need for a healthy and climate-stabilized environment," said Professor Victor Flatt, faculty director of the Law Center's Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources Center.

"At the end of the day we're all in this together," added Calgary Faculty of Law Dean Ian Holloway. "The U.S., Canada and Mexico share a continent, and we're either going to solve our problems together or we won't solve them at all. That's why opportunities like this for us all to come together to talk as colleagues, fellow scholars and fellow practitioners is so very important."

Flatt and Professor Bret Wells, the George Butler Research Professor of Law, began the conference with a talk on cross-border energy and commerce in the face of differing climate policy.

Wells weighed the international trade implications of the U.S. of placing a tax on carbon, which could be used as a means to raise revenue for the federal government.

"There's a couple reasons why that may well be in the cards," Wells said. "First is that the U.S. has a desperate need to solve its fiscal deficit problem. The tax law change that came in December of last year added about $1.5 trillion to the U.S. deficit over a 10-year period. There is a pressing need for tax revenue."

The second panel discussed NAFTA renegotiation and energy, and attempted to project where policy and environmental agreements will be in the future. Discussants included:

  • Richard Miles, a senior fellow and deputy director of the Americas program, and director of the U.S.-Mexico Futures Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Vasken Khabayan, consul general of Canada's Texas office
  • Miriam Grunstein of the Baker Institute's Mexico Center at Rice University

It was moderated by Law Center lecturer Tracy Hester.

Janet Carrig, senior vice president, general counsel at ConocoPhillips delivered the keynote address, "The Right Approach to Oil and Gas Regulation."

The third panel shifted its attention to energy infrastructure buildout regarding pipelines, transmission lines, export terminals, international borders and climate protest. It included Isidro Morales Moreno, who teaches at the School of Government at Tecnologico de Monterrey, James Coleman of the SMU Dedman School of Law and Kristen van de Biezenbos of the University of Calgary Faculty of Law. It was moderated by Research Assistant Professor Julian Cardenas Garcia, Latin American Chair of the EENR Center.

The last panel of the first day was the Dean's Panel moderated by Law Center Dean Leonard M. Baynes. Held under Chatham House rules, discussants shared their opinions on North American Energy, Trade, Environment and Climate in Transition.

The panel consisted of executives at a variety of energy businesses who are all Law Center alumni including:

  • Alex Juden '94, secretary and general counsel at Schlumberger
  • Kay McCall '84, president, CEO and general counsel of Noble Environmental Power
  • Gerald Morton '88, general counsel and vice president of business development for Carrizo Oil and Gas
  • Tony Trevino '86, general counsel of Lewis Energy group
  • William Turcotte '89, senior vice president and general counsel at Noble Corporation

The second day of the conference began with a theme of "The Electricity Revolution – Renewables and the Grid of the Future." The opening panel included Frederick M. Lowther, a partner at Blanke Rome LLP, Brian Tulloh, executive director of Midcontinent Independent System Operator and Dr. Burcin Utel, the Energy Policy Director at New York University School of Law's Institute for Policy Integrity.

Miles returned to deliver the keynote for the second day of the conference. In a wide-ranging presentation, Miles discussed how Mexico's upcoming election could impact the oil and gas industry.

The next panel, "All over the Map – Vertically Integrated Systems and Market Reform" was moderated by Law Center Professor Blake Hudson. The panel included Tulloh, Jonas Monast, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina Law School and Joseph McMonigle, Principal of Blank Rome Government Relations.

The next theme analyzed by discussants was the privatization of Mexican energy. The next discussion featured Felix Mormann of the Texas A&M University School and Manan Parikh, an analyst on Latin America for GTM Research. Associate Professor Gina Warren served as moderator.

The conference's final panel, "Pemex privatization, regulation and governance" included Morales, Rebecca Golden Timsar of the University of Houston's Global Energy Development Center, George Baker, editor of Mexico Energy Intelligence, and was moderated by Garcia.

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