These are challenging times for many. For the Foundation, the COVID-19 pandemic and the related economic impact to natural resource companies, their law firms and landmen, and other natural resource professionals have made holding live conferences practically infeasible. The Foundation leadership has made a series of difficult decisions to cancel or postpone a number of our institutes this year, including our always-anticipated Annual Institute. Yet a crisis can also stir our creativity and initiative. The Foundation’s Board is focused on the future—what can we do now to adapt to the change that is coming because of the pandemic?
To keep serving our membership in 2020, the Foundation moved to ramp up online CLE offerings including webinars and bundled, subject-area-focused video replays of critical content. We started publishing this member’s newsletter, Natural Resources Law Network, to engage our members and provide value. Significantly, the Foundation is also holding a shortened virtual version of our Annual Institute.
The Virtual Annual Institute on July 23-25, 2020, will include up to eight hours of CLE, and is free to members. We will open on Thursday morning with a two-hour General Session (including ethics) followed by afternoon online networking opportunities. On Friday we will hold a two-hour Oil and Gas/Landman’s Section in the morning and a two-hour Water/Environmental Section in the afternoon. The program will conclude with a two-hour Mining/Corporate Counsel Section on Saturday morning. I hope you will join the hundreds of members and others who have already registered!
I want to give a big thank-you to all who completed the Foundation’s first member survey. You provided the Foundation leadership with meaningful and actionable feedback. I also want to announce the winners. Completing the survey entered you in a drawing for two prizes: a complimentary trip in 2021 to our Annual Institute or a Special Institute, including free registration. Congratulations to our winners, Michel Curry from Midland, Texas, and Noelle Kompkoff from Anchorage, Alaska! We look forward to seeing you at an Institute next year.
It has been my honor to be the Foundation’s President during this challenging time—2020 has not been the year I thought I would have in July 2019, but it has been a meaningful year of service. The Foundation’s leadership believes that we are well positioned to emerge from this pandemic as a strong organization. Your support of our unique value proposition—scholarly content and collegiality—make this a certainty.
Natural Resources Law Insights
Implementing SB-181, Colorado's Sweeping Oil and Gas Law
Beau Stark, Frederick Yarger, and Graham Valenta
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP
In April 2019, Colorado enacted Senate Bill 19-181 (“SB-181”), ushering in a number of far-reaching changes to oil and gas regulation in the state. This article provides an overview of these regulatory changes and describes the primary challenges faced by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in implementing SB-181, including delays in the statewide and local rulemaking processes and the development of a patchwork of local rules and regulations. This article also outlines some of the practical consequences of the passage and implementation of SB-181, including the enactment of permitting moratoriums and a slowdown in well permitting across Colorado. Read the entire article:
Litigation, Political Risks Complicate Administration's Effort to Provide Regulatory Certainty on Migratory Bird Treaty Act Liability
Rachel Jacobson, Michael Hazel, Lauren Mercer, Raya Treiser
For decades, competing court rulings and a lack of robust guidance from regulators left the regulated community in a state of uncertainty surrounding the reach of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The Trump Administration recently proposed a rule intended to more clearly delineate what conduct is permissible under the Act, and what conduct will expose entities and individuals to criminal penalties. The rule, which builds on a December 2017 legal opinion from the Department of the Interior, would limit the MBTA’s criminal penalties only to conduct that intentionally kills or harms migratory birds. Unintentional or “incidental” harm to birds from otherwise lawful activities would no longer give rise to MBTA liability. Both the narrowing of criminal liability and the increase in regulatory clarity will be welcome relief for those in the oil and gas, wind, solar, and utility industries (among others) whose operations can unintentionally harm migratory birds. Read the entire article:
The Corps' Nationwide Permit 12 for Oil and Gas Pipelines is Vacated and Enjoined
Joan E. Drake
This article reviews the United States District Court for the District of Montana's recent orders vacating and enjoining Nationwide Permit 12, commonly used for authorizing work in waterways for oil and gas pipelines. The district court remanded NWP 12 to the Corps of Engineers for completion of consultation under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act and enjoined the use of NWP 12 pending completion of the ESA consultation process and compliance with all environmental statutes and regulations. The district court later limited the vacatur and injunction to new construction of oil and gas pipelines, allowing NWP 12 to be used to authorize activities for other projects such as electric transmission lines, fiber optic and internet cables and lines, and maintenance and repair activities. The partial vacatur and injunction apply nationwide. The case is now on appeal at the Ninth Circuit, which refused to issue a stay pending appeal, noting that appellants had not demonstrated a sufficient likelihood of success on the merits and probability of irreparable harm. Cumulative impacts of multiple waterway crossings is a key issue. The case has serious implications for the continued viability of NWPs as an expedient authorization tool for dredge and fill activities under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Read the entire article:
The Shift in Mexico's Renewable Energy Policy
Eduardo Marquez Certucha
Sidley Austin LLP
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Center of Energy Control (Centro Nacional de Control de Energía or “CENACE”) and the Mexican Ministry of Energy (Secretaría de Energía or “SENER”) issued two regulations that have significantly shifted renewable energy policy in Mexico and changed the rules of the game for solar and wind projects. This article will discuss how the two regulations attempt to implement a new “reliability” policy that is based on tight control over the development of solar and wind projects and prioritizes dispatch of energy through conventional power plants – which are primarily owned and operated by the Mexican government. In addition, this article will discuss the response of the private sector to these new rules and the remedies available for private parties seeking to challenge these resolutions. Read the entire article:
Twelve Lessor/Lessee Issues to Consider When Navigating the "New Normal"
Christopher L. Halgren, Austin W. Brister
Operators across the nation are scrutinizing their leases in a widespread effort to navigate historic low oil prices, takeaway curtailment, storage shortages, issues introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic, and a host of associated issues. These circumstances present a variety of complex lease maintenance issues to consider. Most leases obtained during the shale boom are in secondary terms, held either by production in paying quantities, shut-in provisions, operations clause, or continuous development provisions. Each of these introduce a unique analysis, and each is susceptible to significant strategic challenges in the face of low commodity prices along with transportation and storage issues. The article briefly explores twelve issues that may be encountered by lessees in Texas while navigating these unique challenges. Read the entire article:
Jolisa Dobbs is an experienced oil and gas attorney with Thompson & Knight LLP in Dallas, Texas. She has served on the Foundation’s Board of Directors, as a Trustee, and on the Executive Committee.
Jolisa knew in sixth grade that she wanted to be an accountant and a lawyer. She ran the ledger for the business owned by her parents and enjoyed the fact that, at the end of the day, everything had to balance. She enrolled in law school at the University of Oklahoma after earning her master’s degree in accounting and working for two years as an internal auditor for Exxon. OU’s depth of oil and gas courses, along with her previous focus in the area of oil and gas accounting and her real world experience in the industry, allows Jolisa to provide value added advice to her clients. Having a lawyer who understands the business and the economics behind decisions provides an advantage in each transaction.
Jolisa’s involvement with the Foundation began as a recipient of a Joe Rudd Scholarship. Upon graduation, she sought out involvement in the Foundation. Dave Phillips, then Executive Director of the Foundation, suggested that she serve on the Scholarships Committee. Jolisa was delighted to serve and has been very involved ever since. When asked about her passion to serve the Foundation, Jolisa notes that “every opportunity that I have had with the Foundation has provided me with a learning experience. As a result, I have grown and developed as a lawyer in this complex industry. Most importantly, I have made life-long friends. What is not to like?” Jolisa is a frequent sought after speaker for Foundation events and really enjoys the opportunity to present to her peers, noting that “it is always nice to see people you know in the audience and share your knowledge and actual industry experience with your peers. Foundation attendees are always so engaged.” With the Foundation, doors have always been open, and she has been fortunate to make very meaningful connections. So meaningful, in fact, that her oldest son, Henry, views the annual institute akin to the TED conference. He loves to hang out during family night at the Annual Institute and meet her Foundation colleagues. He enjoys the interesting conversations, and they both always “walk away feeling a little smarter.”
While she enjoys her involvement in the Foundation, the highlight of Jolisa’s career has been working for a firm that is so specialized in the industry. This has made a big impact with her clients. Jolisa believes she is truly blessed to be an attorney.
Jolisa advises young professionals that “you really need to put yourself in your clients’ shoes. Deliver a product that anticipates their needs and questions and provides the information and market experience necessary to understand and assess the risk. All at a price point that is reasonable and sensitive to the client’s budget.” Regarding where the oil and gas industry is headed, she says “there is a lot of chaos right now. This is a cyclical industry – so stay calm and carry on.”
Jolisa is a delight to talk to and unwavering in her support of the Foundation and her clients. How does she stay so consistently upbeat? She has three wonderful boys, 15, 13, and 9. The boys are learning to play poker and are big fans of Taco Tuesday. This summer the boys will be refurbishing the backyard, a project Jolisa describes as “Life Camp 101”!
BIO: JOLISA MELTON DOBBS is an experienced oil and gas attorney who concentrates on oil and gas acquisition and disposition transactions throughout all oil and gas plays – including the Eagle Ford, Barnett, Haynesville, and Marcellus. Jolisa’s background as an internal auditor for a major oil and gas company and as a Certified Public Accountant gives her an edge in assessing, understanding, and allocating various risks associated with transactions and oil and gas properties. In addition, she counsels clients in the areas of oil and gas secured lending, joint venture and development arrangements, and the acquisition and disposition of natural resources companies. Jolisa also has expertise in oil and gas title due diligence in acquisitions of properties, and she regularly advises clients regarding exploration and production activities, including preparation of agreements and COPAS issues, and regarding leasing issues. Jolisa is a frequent lecturer at conferences and seminars, and publisher of articles in prestigious industry journals, on oil and gas related topics. She is also a deep contributor to numerous leading oil and gas legal and accounting organizations through the various board and trustee positions to which she was selected.
Rob Risley has traveled all over the world, living much of his adult life in Thailand. He feels very connected to that country, and when he discusses his time there, you can hear the excitement in his voice. Rob didn’t begin his career planning to travel the globe; however, he was fortunate to be able to spend his early career working as a petroleum exploration geologist, developing a natural gas project in Thailand. When the price of oil started really sinking in the 1980s he felt it was time to take his extensive science background to the next level, so he decided to attend law school. After graduation, Rob practiced project finance law in Bangkok and eventually moved on to Freeport-McMoRan to use his deep background in international transactions. Rob believes that “business associations are the key to prosperity,” and he has carried that mantra forward, connecting capital to exploration and developing both business and personal relationships all over the world.
Rob got involved with the Foundation after his boss suggested it. He has served as a Trustee and is currently very involved with the Scholarships Committee. When he first joined the Foundation, he was attracted to all of the “great people,” but he also became interested in “looking at the sustainability of the organization from a diversity viewpoint.” Rob felt that the Foundation needed to “recruit students that would grow with the Foundation,” and he has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the Foundation’s philanthropic mission. Both Rob and Freeport-McMoRan have been hugely supportive of the Foundation’s scholarship program, establishing and providing funding for the Frances Hartogh Diversity Outreach Scholarship. When asked about the impetus for that scholarship program, Rob said “it was a super fun project and a lot of factors came together all at one time: the need to support students with tuition for law school (which is really outrageous), the need for a vehicle to educate Foundation constituents on diversity, the right timing with Frances Hartogh retiring from the Foundation, and the fact that the stock market created an opportunity to contribute appreciated securities. The Foundation has enriched my personal life and my career and I have tremendous gratitude for RMMLF.”
Rob’s advice to a young professional or student just starting out is to “connect with your contacts on a real personal level, get to know their values – honesty, fairness, and professionalism. You are associated with a great group of people (attorneys and Foundation constituents). Don’t ever isolate yourself.”
Right now, COVID has made Rob’s retirement feel like house arrest. With the tremendous societal disruption, it is really too soon to know what his next steps will be. He would like to work on a project – something where we “can have a conversation, share our concerns, and work together on practical solutions.” Rob is just the individual to make that happen.
BIO: ROB RISLEY is retiring from Freeport-McMoRan Inc. in Phoenix, Arizona where he was in-house counsel. His practice has focused on domestic and international transactions involving mineral rights, and on domestic real estate and alternative energy transactions. Among numerous other transactions he has handled for Freeport worldwide, Rob negotiated the acquisition and restructuring of Freeport’s interest in the Tenke-Fungurume copper-cobalt project in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the sale of the Ambatovy nickel project in Madagascar. Prior to joining Freeport, Rob practiced in the Bangkok office of White & Case, representing lenders and project companies in resource, energy and power-related project-finance transactions located throughout Southeast Asia. Prior to studying law, Rob spent more than 10 years with a major oil company as a petroleum exploration geologist, including 7 years exploring and developing a natural gas project in the Gulf of Thailand. Rob holds degrees from the U.C.L.A. School of Law (J.D.), the University of Arizona (M.S., Geosciences) and the University of California at Davis (B.S., Geology, honors).
Scholarship Winners Spotlight
Desiree Smith grew up in a rural area of western Colorado and is a 3L at Washburn University School of Law. Following her first year of law school, she served as a summer law clerk at the Kansas Department of Agriculture, where one of her favorite research projects was an in-depth exploration of an issue relating to groundwater in Kansas. Although her plans following graduation are still unclear, she is interested in pursuing a career in energy law, specifically oil and gas and renewable energy. Regarding her scholarship award, she said, “I am very honored and blessed to receive this very generous scholarship. The scholarship benefits me personally by helping to guide my decision-making process as I choose a career practice area, but it also benefits the career as a whole as it supports women pursuing and excelling in this area of law. I would like to thank RMMLF and Washburn Law for their support as I pursue my legal education!”
Holly Hayes is a Cherokee Nation citizen from Owasso, Oklahoma and a 2L at the University of Tulsa College of Law. She is the first member of her family to pursue a JD. She holds an undergraduate degree in energy management from the University of Oklahoma and worked as a landman for two years before attending law school. She would like to pursue a career as an oil and gas attorney and readily recognizes that Native Americans make up less than one percent of attorneys. As she stated, “obtaining my JD will allow me to make a small impact, but an impact nonetheless, by increasing the number of Native American attorneys in the US. Additionally, I will continue to serve as a role model to those in my community who also wish to pursue graduate level education. Thank you so much for selecting me as a Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation scholarship recipient. I appreciate your generosity and recognition of my efforts.”
Highlights of Recent Programs
The Foundation held a webinar on Oil and Gas Companies in Crisis: Working with Lenders, Contractors, Suppliers, and Regulatory Agencies on April 16, 2020. We had over 320 registrants from across the country. Our panel included Marcella Burke, a partner at King & Spalding in Washington DC and Houston and the former Deputy Solicitor for Energy and Natural Resources and Senior Counselor to the Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management at the U.S. Department of Interior, Peter Hays, a partner at King & Spalding in Houston, Jason A. Hill, the Deputy Solicitor for Energy and Mineral Resources in the Department of Interior, and Chris Richardson, a partner at Davis Graham & Stubbs in Denver. If you missed this informative presentation, we have added it to our Online Natural Resources Education platform here.
The Foundation had over 370 registrants from across the country join our webinar on Bankruptcy 101: Basic Legal Concepts for the Oil and Gas Industry on May 8 2020. Our panel included Demetra Liggins, a partner at Thompson & Knight LLP in Houston, Mark Brannum, Executive Vice President, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary at Jonah Energy LLC in Denver, and Jessica Peet, a senior associate at Vinson & Elkins LLP in New York. If you missed this explanatory webinar, we have added this presentation to our Online Natural Resources Education platform here.
The Foundation presented a webinar on EPA and State Environmental Policies to Address Environmental Compliance During the COVID-19 Pandemic on May 13, 2020, with an esteemed panel from a variety or private and public organization. The panel included John R. Jacus, a partner at Davis Graham & Stubbs in Denver, Jennifer Smith Fary, Senior Counsel in the Environmental & Safety Law Group at Chevron Corporation, Kenneth (K.C.) Schefski, Regional Counsel for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 8, Nancy Vehr, Air Quality Administrator for the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, and Rosalie Winn, Senior Attorney, U.S. Clean Air, Environmental Defense Fund. If you missed this informative and timely presentation, we have added this to our Online Natural Resources Education platform here.
Welcome New Trustees
The current Trustees Council consists of representatives from 34 law schools, 13 bar associations, 11 mining associations, eight oil and gas associations, 25 trustees-at-large, 34 past presidents, 17 honorary trustees, four officers, and six Board members-at-large. Adjusting for those who serve in dual capacities, the Trustees Council totals 149. The Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation would like to welcome and thank our new Trustees for 2020.
- Professor Michelle Bryan has been appointed the Trustee for the University of Montana School of Law, succeeding Professor Sandi Zellmer.
- Professor Dylan Hedden-Nicely has been appointed the Trustee for the University of Idaho College of Law, succeeding Professor Barbara Cosens, who is retiring from the full-time faculty.
- Professor Karrigan Bork has been appointed the trustee for the University of California-Davis School of Law, succeeding Professor Richard Frank.
- Professor Troy Rule has been appointed the trustee for the Arizona State University College of Law, succeeding Professor Karen Bradshaw.
- Amy Mignella, Assistant Attorney General with the White Mountain Apache Tribe, has been appointed the Trustee for the State Bar of Arizona, succeeding Shilpa Hunter-Patel.
Welcome New Members