Printable Version

Fall 2012
5297 Environmental Law in Oil & Gas Production and Refining - BORTKA- 34471

Professor(s): Lynn Bortka (ADJUNCT)

Credits: 2

Course Areas: Energy, Natural Resources and Environmental Law 

Time: 4:00p-6:00p  ThLocation: 209  BLB

Course Outline: Protection of the environment is not a “money making” proposition for the oil and gas industry. A good environmental record may gain a company better public relations versus its “messier” peers and be a selling point to foreign governments in attempts to gain exploration concessions or locate refineries and chemical plants on foreign shores. Nonetheless, every dollar spent on environmental protection or remediation reduces corporate profits by the same amount.
According to many, the oil industry enjoys “sweeping exemptions” from provisions in major federal environmental statutes intended to protect human health and the environment. Truly, some oil industry wastes, substances, and activities are far less regulated than those from other industries. This less-regulated environment exists even though public perception of the oil industry consistently ranks as the poorest-viewed industry surveyed.
When land and water are contaminated by the industry, and statutory remedies are available, aggrieved parties often turn to common law civil courts for monetary “damages” instead of seeking redress through (a) governmental regulatory bodies or (b) citizen suit provisions of the environmental laws. When courts award money damages against oil companies for environmental contamination often the damage awards are not used for environmental remediation.
So… what’s the deal? Is the oil industry really treated “differently” when it comes to the environment and, if so, why? If the general public has such a nasty opinion of the oil industry, why aren’t environmental laws a lot tougher on the industry than they are? Is that situation going to change? Why don’t oil and gas companies and state legislatures work to ensure that monetary damage awards are used to clean up environmental problems?
This class explores these questions and issues from the viewpoints of
1. the landowners directly impacted by oil-field contamination,
2. the oil and gas companies,
3. the regulatory agencies and legislatures charged with protecting the environment and the general public, and
4. non-governmental organizations who work for protection of the environment.
In some cases, state common law has evolved in the last fifteen years to fill gaps left by statutes and regulations. Unfortunately, the common law is going in many “different directions”. Identical contamination fact-patterns in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, for example, would lead to three distinctly different outcomes in the courts. The class will explore the relationships among the relevant environmental statutes, regulations, and common law and strive to make sense of this tangled web of jurisprudence as it applies to the oil and gas industry. It’s a fun journey for those interested in attacking, defending, or overhauling the industry’s environmental position.
There is an average amount of reading required for the course with probably ten, or fewer, partial case readings required depending on the pace of the class.

Course Outline (pdf)

Course Syllabus:

Course Notes:   Attendance: You must comply with the Law Center’s 80% attendance policy. Much of the material presented and discussed in class is not found in text books. Missing class will impact what you are able to take away from this course and will likely impact your grade. I strongly encourage those who must miss class to arrange for a classmate to sound-record the missed lecture. Reviewing notes taken by others is insufficient.

Class Participation: Extra credit consistent with the Law Center’s policy will be provided to those that regularly participate meaningfully in class. Conversely, I reserve the right to reduce a student’s grade for being consistently unprepared or refusing to participate or respond when called on in class. I have never had to do so.

Grading: Your grade will be based on a two hour closed-book, closed-notes exam. It will primarily be a series of essay and short answer questions. The exam will cover all material assigned and all matters discussed in class.

Prerequisites:  

First Day Assignments: The assignment is to read chapter one, "Administrative Law", from the text.

Final Exam Schedule: 12/13 6-8pm  240 BLB    

This course will have:
Exam:
Paper:

Satisfies Skills Course Requirement: No
Satisfies Senior Upper Level Writing Requirement: No