Women in Energy Law and Regulation Conference

This conference brought together women in electricity law and regulation to discuss the most pressing questions facing legislators and regulators today. Each of the panel topics was selected for its relevance in ongoing debates about the right way to structure and implement legal oversight of the electricity system. The event was anchored by the law school’s annual Schultz Lecture, held the evening before the conference. This year, the Schultz Lecture was delivered by former FERC Commissioner Collette Honorable (video below). The Conferencel also featured a conversation among energy journalists covering conference topics (and others like them). This was an opportunity for an open conversation with other panelists and the audience about ways in which law professors, policymakers, and others can support the work of independent journalism in chronicling energy developments. 

 

Celebrating 40 years of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) administers approximately 245 million acres of our public lands and yet, for most of our nation’s history, these lands seemed largely destined to end up in private hands.  Even when the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 ushered in an important era of better managing public grazing districts and “promoting the highest use of the public lands,” such use of our public lands still was plainly considered temporary, “pending its final disposal.” It was not until 1976 with the passage of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) that congress adopted a policy that the “public lands be retained in Federal ownership.”   In the 40 years since Congress enacted FLPMA, the BLM has experienced a remarkable transformation from an agency once focusing almost entirely on livestock grazing and mineral development to one that has fully embraced a multiple use mandate—including managing large tracts of public lands for conservation and even wilderness protection purposes.  Many of the nation’s prominent environmental or natural resource laws, within last few years, have celebrated their 40thanniversaries, often provoking critical dialogues about their past and future.  It is now time to acknowledge and celebrate the remarkable transformation of the BLM over the last 40 years since FLMPA’s enactment in 1976.As the Trump Administration’s priorities unfold, we address the implications of potential policy shifts and other emerging issues in these critical areas.

State-Local Conflict Over Fracking

Professor David Spence, University of Texas at Austin

The law is frequently called upon to resolve regulatory conflicts that arise when a majority mildly prefers policy X, and minority strongly prefers policy not X. Two emerging bodies of case law present this problem, both associated with the growing number of challenges to local restrictions on the use of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) to produce oil and gas. One set of cases involves claims that these local restrictions are preempted by state oil and gas law; the other involves claims that, where a local ordinance survives preemption, it amounts to a regulatory taking. This lecture explores how the distribution of the costs and benefits of fracking drive the politics that provoke preemption and takings conflicts in the first place, and how the decision rules courts use to resolve preemption and takings claims try to address those distributional concerns.

Celebrating the Great Law The Wilderness Act at 50

On September 3, 2014, the National Wilderness Preservation System—established and protected by the Wilderness Act of 1964—celebrates its 50th anniversary.  We are gathering on September 4th and 5th to celebrate Wilderness—“ornery old wilderness, scratchy, sweaty, and distant, but sacred every step of the way”—and to commemorate the great law so central to its protection. 

This is not an ordinary conference, full of dry presentations or heated policy debates.  Instead, this will be a full-throated love song to wild country.  We have brought together some of the most inspiring, insightful, and compelling Wilderness luminaries:  writers, storytellers, advocates, historians, educators, photographers, and other admirers. The most important invitee of all will be the public—those who make wilderness an important part of their lives, and those who simply take comfort in its existence.

Our goal will be to tell the story of the Wilderness movement over the course of the last 50 years, to rearticulate the ethos of the Wilderness community in light of that history, and to take a short moment to reflect on and appreciate the progress that has been made.