The Harry L. Reed Oil & Gas Law Institute at South Texas College of Law Houston
South Texas College of Law Houston is pleased to announce the formation of its Oil & Gas Law Institute. The Institute seeks to be responsive to the practical needs of law firms and energy companies and aims to give students the opportunity to acquire the analytical and practice skills necessary to make immediate contributions to the oil and gas industry. The Institute will also promote oil and gas legal scholarship germane to industry practice in Texas and beyond.
The United States is in the midst of an historic energy transformation, and Houston, as usual, is at the heart of this revolution. Known as the energy capital of North America since the Texas Oil Boom of the early 1900s, Houston has long embraced the importance of the oil and gas industry’s role in meeting the world’s ever-increasing energy needs. Now home to more than 5,000 energy firms and the world’s largest concentration of refineries and petrochemical plants, the Houston region is unrivaled in its understanding of and its ability to provide unparalleled leadership in the oil and gas industry. As the source of more than 75 percent of global energy, fossil fuels will continue to provide abundant, reliable, versatile, controllable and storable energy sources throughout our lifetimes and beyond.
The tremendous workforce needs of the oil and gas industry continue to grow, particularly in the legal arena—a fact well understood by South Texas College of Law Houston. Uniquely positioned in Downtown Houston, the city’s oldest law school has been educating and preparing practice-ready graduates to serve the energy industry with distinction for decades. South Texas College of Law Houston provides a diverse body of students with the opportunity to obtain an exceptional legal education so they can serve their community on many levels, including the oil and gas industry. In academic year 2013-14, South Texas College of Law Houston enrolled 1,197 students, of which 34.1 percent were minorities, awarded 398 J.D. degrees, and celebrated an 84.12 percent bar passage rate, two points higher than the state average. The College is known for its award-winning Advocacy Program, as well as its renowned Legal Research and Writing Program, Transactional Practice Center, Frank Evans Center for Conflict Resolution, and Randall O. Sorrels Legal Clinics, which serve some of the greater Houston community’s most disadvantaged citizens.
Now, South Texas College of Law Houston has added another center of excellence to build on its successes. The College has established the Oil & Gas Law Institute to enhance the law school’s efforts in providing a comprehensive and useful legal education for students interested in working for energy companies, law firms with energy practices, land companies, and regulatory agencies. By combining a wide-ranging regimen of courses, projects, symposia and scholarship, the Institute builds on the College’s expertise in providing students with the practical knowledge and skills they need to contribute immediately to law firms and energy companies upon graduation.
Energy law is a complex and multi-faceted field that encompasses a variety of industries. The predominant industry in Texas is comprised of oil and gas companies and there are a multitude of career opportunities in this sector for South Texas College of Law Houston students to pursue. Depending on the type of oil and gas law attorneys choose to practice, students also need to acquire, to varying degrees, a background in corporate and business law, transactional drafting and negotiation skills, bankruptcy, dispute resolution skills both in and out of court, and an understanding of the regulatory environment.
The Institute, headed by Visiting Associate Professor Christopher S. Kulander, will focus on developing applied petroleum-related transactional, title, and regulatory practice skills. A sampling of classes being taught over the 2014-15 academic year include: Oil, Gas and Mineral Law; Advanced Oil & Gas Law; Domestic Energy Law; International Energy Law; Texas Oil, Gas, and Land Title Examination; International Petroleum Transactions; and, Transactional Skills, Energy. South Texas College of Law Houston professor and General Counsel Harry L. Reed continues his ground-breaking class on Oil & Gas Law. Adjunct faculty teaching in the Institute include Michael Jones, M. Ryan Kirby, James T. Perry, and Harry Sullivan. New classes in development for the 2015-16 academic year and beyond will focus on midstream and downstream components of the oil and gas industry, and mining law.
As the Oil & Gas Law Institute expands, future areas of study will include international petroleum transactions and other sources of energy, such as solar, wind, hydro, biomass, geothermal, and nuclear energy. Even with an expanded focus on alternative sources of energy, South Texas College of Law Houston will continue to offer a plethora of core, relevant courses for law students interested in oil and gas law. The Institute, in concert with the College’s Office of Career Resources, will also seek to place advanced students in legal departments of oil and gas companies around Houston. This internship program will expose students to real oil and gas legal issues, and provide graduates with a direct route for potential future employment. Significantly, the Institute will produce and promote scholarship related to the oil and gas legal business to augment, provide nuance, and—where necessary—serve as a counterpoint to the current discourse in legal circles and the popular media in Texas and across the nation. It is envisioned that the Institute will grow over time to partner with other educational institutions and policy institutes to help lead public discourse on topics pertaining to the oil and gas industry, and the energy sector overall. With a planned advisory board comprised of representatives from the energy industry, academia, and regulatory and legislative agencies, the Institute will sponsor policy papers and public symposia on specific current issues.
The 2014-15 Director of the Institute, Professor Kulander is of Counsel to Haynes and Boone, LLP, serves as an expert witness, and frequently gives presentations and speeches. He received his J.D. from the University of Oklahoma, where he was assistant managing editor and note editor for the American Indian Law Review, and three-year research assistant for Owen L. Anderson, Eugene Kuntz Chair of Oil & Gas Law.
Before teaching, Kulander practiced full-time for four years in the Houston office of Haynes and Boone in the Energy Practice Group, focusing on energy lending, finance, and bankruptcy. Prior to that, he practiced for two years with Cotton & Bledsoe in Midland, focusing on oil and gas title and leasing.
Kulander received his Bachelors of Science and Masters of Science degrees from Wright State in Dayton, Ohio, and his Ph.D. in geophysics (petroleum seismology) from Texas A&M, after which he worked as a geophysicist for the U.S. Geological Survey. He has written and published in the fields of oil and gas law, as well as in geology and petroleum seismology. Additionally, he serves as an editor of the Oil & Gas Law Reporter.
Kulander will represent the Oil & Gas Law Institute and College at various oil and gas events in Texas and throughout the nation, an important piece of the Institute’s public mission. He addressed the 27th Annual Energy Law Institute for Attorneys and Landmen on Aug. 27-28, 2014, at South Texas College of Law Houston. More than 100 attendees heard from oil and gas legal experts about subsurface trespass, title issues, hydraulic fracturing, environmental law impacts on energy, lease maintenance, royalties and deductions, case law updates, and allocating risk in oilfield contracts. Kulander addressed the attendees, speaking on non-Texas case law. Kulander is scheduled to attend and speak at approximately 10 CLEs and conferences during the 2014-15 academic year, including the Oil & Gas Law Annual Short Course by the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, the Section Annual Meeting of the American Bar Association Business Law Section, the 2014 Texas Land Institute of the American Association of Petroleum Landmen, and the Annual Case Law Update of the Houston Bar Association. He has placed four energy law articles in various law reviews in 2014 on topics such as LNG exports, international investment in American oil & gas real property, and groundwater regulatory takings affecting the oil & gas business in Texas, and will complete and publish four energy law articles in 2015.
The Institute will host the Third Annual Hartrick Symposium: Career Paths for Young Attorneys in the Energy Sector on Mar. 27-28, 2015. This symposium, jointly sponsored by the school and the Institute for Energy Law, is comprised of a two-day conference promoting legal careers in oil and gas for law students.
Additionally, South Texas College of Law Houston will host the first regional Energy Law Negotiation Competition on Feb. 21, 2015. Judges for this competition will be recruited from top energy law firms and energy companies in Houston, allowing students to meet prominent oil and gas attorneys from the region. The Institute will assist with judge recruitment, contest materials, and participant assessment.
The Institute also provides South Texas of Law Houston the opportunity to build on its well-established transactional law practice expertise. South Texas College of Law Houston hosts the Transactional Practice Center, whose mission is to train law students in business practice. The Center currently offers various transactional law courses, including one focused on energy finance involving a semester-long scenario stimulating the financing and conveyancing of an offshore platform. The Institute seeks to support the Center in conducting this and future such courses with both materials and expertise.
South Texas College of Law Houston’s ability to sustain operations and make strategic investments in initiatives such as the Oil & Gas Law Institute hinges on the amount of annual support at its disposal, and the size and strength of its endowment. For the academic year 2014-15, the College has directed a portion of its annual operating budget to fund the formation of the Oil & Gas Law Institute. This budget has been supplemented by early philanthropic investments in the Institute made by generous friends of the College.
To sustain the Oil & Gas Law Institute in future years and expand and enhance its programming and reach with resources to add new faculty and staff, partner effectively with other industry and academic thought leaders, and introduce CLE courses, public lectures and symposia, South Texas College of Law Houston needs to enlist the support of the oil and gas community.
Annual and endowed gifts to the Oil & Gas Law Institute strengthen instruction and curricula, ensure top-notch tools and resources, and provide the financial security necessary to embark on multi-year initiatives and institutional partnerships that keep the Institute on the cutting-edge and ensure its place as Houston’s premiere legal teaching and learning resource serving the oil and gas industry.
The evolution of oil and gas law—and of the legal education and scholarship behind it—challenges all of us to be nimbler and more purposeful. It requires us to innovate, reimagine, and adapt. So too do we understand the growing role philanthropy must play in the life of any educational institution that wishes to lead. South Texas College of Law Houston calls upon valued leaders in the oil and gas industry, other corporate and foundation partners, alumni, and community members to seize this transformational moment. Together we can craft a powerful future for the Oil & Gas Law Institute.
For more information or to make a fully tax-deductible gift to support and strengthen the Oil & Gas Law Institute, please contact:
Vice President, Advancement and Alumni Engagement
The Harry Reed Institute for Oil & Gas is excited and proud to announce the creation of our Institute’s Energy Newsletter. The Energy Newsletter is a student-run scholarly newsletter designed to bringing to the global energy community timely and unique perspective about the industry. The Energy Newsletter gives students, professors, and alumni a platform to talk about the domestic and global implications of their challenges in practice and in academia surrounding all things energy. Having such a center stage in downtown Houston, the Newsletter team, managed by the Oil & Gas Law Society but sponsored by the Institute for Oil & Gas, looks forward to bringing exciting articles co-authored by students and alumni.
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If you would like to contribute to the Energy Newsletter, please send all inquiries to the Editor in Chief of the Energy Newsletter, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to support the Oil & Gas Law Institute at South Texas College of Law Houston.
Oil, Gas & Mineral Law
This class provides an overview of U.S. oil and gas law. Students will gain an understanding of basic oil and gas law principles, derived from a combination of property, contract, administrative, tort, and constitutional law. The course provides an opportunity to take a law course that cuts across several core law-school subjects and from the perspective of a particular business—oil and gas, a business that deals with the most widely traded and strategically important commodity and that has important customs and practices that influence both contract and law. The law of all producing states will be considered with some emphasis on Oklahoma and Texas, the two states with large bodies of oil and gas case law and that most often provide divergent views on various oil and gas issues. At the end of the course, among other topics, students should be able to:
- Identify instances where the rule of capture applies to multi-tract situations and when spacing and density rules intervene to modify application of the rule of capture;
- Identify various common clauses in current and past oil and gas lease forms and apply these clauses to specific conveyance and production situations;
- Identify the basic present and future estate names and characteristics of various mineral and leasehold interests in Texas and Oklahoma;
- Calculate various royalties depending on the language used in royalty clauses in oil and gas leases and outstanding fixed or floating royalties deeds;
- Determine ownership of surface and mineral interests in various scenarios involving adverse possession in Texas;
- Identify whether a described interest is a royalty or mineral interest;
- Read and understand township-and-range maps, sectional maps, and property descriptions;
- Articulate qualitatively how royalty will be calculated on natural gas depending on the language used in an oil and gas lease’s royalty clause in Texas and Oklahoma;
- Determine whether a particular substance will be judicially determined to be a mineral or surface interest in Texas and Oklahoma; and
- Apply the Duhig principal to mineral conveyances
Texas Oil, Gas and Land Title
The purpose of this course is to build upon the concepts learned in the introductory Oil, Gas, and Mineral Law course. This course will further acquaint students with advanced aspects of Texas oil, gas, and mineral in its common law, gas industry, and study the standard issues a Texas title examiner will frequently address when evaluating title for a client, along with typical comments and requirements found in a title opinion. Finally, students will partake in a practicum, evaluating a runsheet and accompanying documents, and will then draft an original title opinion for a fictitious oil and gas client.
Transactional Skills-Energy Finance
The problem model will involve a typical transaction in the oil and gas industry. The initial problem will be the “monetization” of an offshore floating oil and gas platform in the Gulf of Mexico. The company owning the platform plans to use its value to borrow money to fund drilling wells in an established reservoir. Students will learn generally about the offshore oil and gas industry, especially producing hydrocarbons from underwater fields and moving them onshore. The platform will be conveyed to a subsidiary which will use it as collateral for a loan from foreign investors. The original owner will pay the subsidiary a monthly fee to use the platform for production. Documents will include the conveyance of the platform to the subsidiary, the use agreement, the loan agreement, a pledge (security agreement, and a legal opinion letter to the lender.
Transactional Skills-Oil & Gas
This drafting course introduces students to a hypothetical multi-faceted domestic onshore petroleum transaction. The scenario involves a mid-sized oil and gas exploration company attempting to acquire a position in a mature onshore field where most of the acreage has already been leased. Teams of students will draft leases for the unleased acreage within the prospect while also drafting a purchase and sale agreement (with form of assignment) to facilitate an assignment of other existing leases covering another portion of the prospect. These acquisitions will require a loan and thus a credit agreement and associated deed of trust over the acquired acreage will also be drafted. Regarding the remaining acreage of the prospect, the working interest of the existing leases not available for purchase will be acquired through a farmout agreement drafted to allow for the earning of acreage through drilling. Finally, a master service agreement will be drafted to provide the pertinent default contractual terms under which each specific site-preparation project will be conducted with various contractors.
Domestic Petroleum Transactions
This class covers practical aspects of the U.S. oil and gas legal regime, focusing on the relationship between energy companies and between energy companies and regulatory authorities. Topics of discussion include contracts and transfers by oil and gas lessees such as assignments, farmouts, operating agreements, purchase and sale agreements, and master service agreements. Oil and gas development on federal, state, and American Indian lands will be considered, as well as environmental regulation of the petroleum industry. Bankruptcy, energy finance, and land use control will also be covered, as well as purchase of domestic oil and gas assets by foreigners. The law of all producing states will be considered with some emphasis on Oklahoma and Texas, the two states with largest bodies of oil and gas case law and which most often provide divergent views on various oil and gas issues. At the end of the course, among other topics and tasks, students should be able to:
- Compile all the components of a joint operating agreement and exhibits thereto;
- Comprehend and draft an indemnity provision;
- Comprehend and draft an overriding royalty conveyance;
- Identify each specific type of applicable environment act/regulation (land use restrictions, performance standards, and imposed liability) and what exploration and production activities may trigger application of same;
- Calculate working interest owning (WIO) “beneficial” and “participating” interests in federal and fee units;
- Provide counsel in practice on the procedure and process for a foreign entity to purchase American energy assets; and
- Draft simple form of assignments.
International Petroleum Transactions
This course will provide an introduction to the foundational principles of international exploration and production, and the agreements that are integral to conducting hydrocarbon exploration and development. Although the focus of this course will be on the legal concepts and principles inherent in international oil and gas transactions, emphasis of the course will be from a practical, practice-oriented standpoint, focusing on issues encountered while negotiating, drafting and implementing agreements integral to international petroleum transactions. The course will also provide perspective and insight into international oil and gas activities from a commercial standpoint. Key principles that will be covered include the following:
- An overview of the energy industry and outlook for energy sources into the near future
- Overview and examination of international petroleum legislation, its objectives, structure and contents
- Overview and examination of representative Host Country Granting Instruments
- Introduction to common law versus civil law legal regimes
- Overview of fiscal systems
- International arbitration and dispute resolution and stabilization
- Significant agreements related to joint venture formation
- Confidentiality agreements
- Joint bidding agreements
- Joint Operating Agreements
- Introduction to anti-corruption and anti-bribery legislation
- Exposure to contractual obligations and mechanics of abandonment/decommissioning obligations
Domestic Energy Law
This survey course is intended to serve as an introduction to the relevant issues in energy law and to help prepare a student for a career in one of the areas covered. If you were to become an attorney for a state public service commission or the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, for example, this course will provide you with the basic foundation needed for such a job. Although it is a survey course that covers most aspects of energy not covered in other classes, from hydroelectric and nuclear power to the extraction and transport of natural gas to generation, transport, and distribution of electricity, we will explore several topics in depth, and you will gain a relatively detailed understanding of these topics. These will include the transmission of electricity and ratemaking associated with retail electricity sales. At the end of the course, students should be able to:
- Describe the history of American monopolies, identify the characteristics of a monopoly generally, and list and describe controls necessary for regulated industries;
- Understand ratemaking and identify the components of the public utility rate base equation and be able to categorize various costs faced by regulated industries;
- List and define the steps necessary to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for major federal actions, including the Integrated Licensing Process;
- List the general location, development characteristics and challenges, and advantages and disadvantages of each of the following energy sources: coal, nuclear, wind, solar, natural gas, oil, hydroelectric, and geothermal;
- Describe the purpose, structure, and compliance process of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977; and
- Describe the purpose, structure, and compliance process of the Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act of 1978.
This class is an overview of the concepts found in U.S. Water Law. The concepts taught in this course are increasingly critical to development of energy assets in America and the maintenance of the health and safety of its citizens. By the end of this course, you will be able to:
- Identify legal issues relating to the application of surface water, groundwater, and public rights in water;
- Determine which common law, statutory and/or constitutional principles are relevant to resolving these legal issues;
- Analyze the pertinent facts necessary to apply these laws and principles to the issues;
- Synthesize the law and facts to resolve the legal issues raised in the fact scenarios and problems.
Further, students will be able to compare and contrast the two general types of common law distribution regimes that apply to surface water, the five types that apply in groundwater jurisdictions, and the modern permit alternatives. Students will also be able to explain the difficulties created by, and possible solutions to, regulating surface water-groundwater connections and to distinguish between and apply state and federal public rights in water, including rights related to recreational use and navigation. Finally, students will be able to describe and discuss—in the context of a given set of facts—interstate allocation of water through congressional apportionment, interstate compact, equitable apportionment, and private litigation.
How to Help Support the Oil & Gas Law Institute at South Texas College of Law Houston
South Texas College of Law Houston’s ability to make strategic investments in initiatives such as the Oil & Gas Law Institute hinges on the amount of annual support at its disposal, and the size and strength of our endowment. This year, the College has directed a portion of its annual operating budget to fund the formation of the Institute. This budget has been supplemented by early philanthropic investments in the Institute made by generous friends of the College.
In order to sustain the Oil & Gas Law Institute for the future and expand its reach through partnerships with industry and other academic thought leaders, new CLE courses, public lectures, and symposia, and additional faculty and staff, the College is seeking to enlist the help of oil and gas community, its alumni, other corporate and foundation partners and the community at large.
The evolution of oil and gas law – and of the legal education and scholarship behind it – challenges all of us to be nimbler and more purposeful. It requires us to innovate, reimagine, and adapt. So too do we understand the growing role philanthropy must play in the life of any educational institution that wishes to lead.
South Texas College of Law Houston would greatly appreciate a philanthropic investment in the Oil & Gas Law Institute. Together, we can ensure the Institute’s place as Houston’s premiere legal teaching and learning resource serving the oil and gas industry.