Guest Post on New Book: Energy Law: A Context and Practice Casebook

To start,  I want to say thank you to Professor Coleman for allowing me to join him for a few guest posts here at the Energy Law Professor. I am Professor of Law at the West Virginia University College of Law where I teach and research energy law and policy and business law as part of the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development and I direct our new LLM in Energy and Sustainable Development Law. I am also a co-editor of the Business Law Prof Blog.

In the future, I will share some posts on my research projects, many of which can be found here. For my first post, I’ll take this chance to announce the result of another project: my  new casebook, Energy Law: A Context and Practice Casebook, which is at the printer and will be available for use in fall courses. This book provides a different focus than most casebooks and is designed to allow law teachers to provide a comprehensive introduction to energy law in a way that makes students more practice ready in all aspects of the law, especially energy. The book provides practical context for students as they learn doctrine, helps students develop practical skills, and requires students to think about their respective professional identities by integrating and highlighting ethical considerations that lawyers are likely to encounter.

The text is part of the Carolina Academic Press Context and Practice Series, edited by Michael Hunter Schwartz, Dean at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, William H. Bowen School of Law.  He explains the series, in part, as follows:

A few principles are core to the series’ vision. Best Practices recommends that law professors set high expectations, “engage the students in active learning,” “give regular and prompt feedback,” “help students improve their self-directed learning skills,” “employ multiple methods of instruction,” and, in particular, “use context-based instruction.” Educating Lawyers argues that law professors need to do a better job helping students build practice skills and develop their professional identities.

With that in mind, here’s how I introduce the structure of my book to students:

This casebook is designed to provide insight into the energy law in the broadest sense. As with any broad and new area of the law, learning energy law can sometimes feel like drinking from a fire hose. The goal of this casebook is to help make learning the concepts (and, ultimately, practice) a little more manageable. As such, this casebook does not purport or attempt to be a comprehensive look at energy law. Instead, the book is designed to provide an introduction to the broad and varied legal and policy issues faced by those working in today’s energy industry.

Particular focus in the casebook is taken to help facilitate an understanding of basic concepts and terminology, which can be one of the most difficult parts of understanding energy law issues. In fact, even courts can have a hard time clearly explaining, and thus understanding, the concepts before them. Once the basic concepts and terms are understood, finding the answers to difficult questions in energy law becomes more manageable, though never easy.

There are several different ways to organize and structure a course in energy law. This casebook is organized to link concepts and resources in a way in which one might encounter them in legal practice or policy settings, rather than structured by the energy resource itself. Thus, as an example, natural gas is not a specific chapter in this book. Instead, natural gas issues related to mineral leasing are encountered with the similar process for coal and oil. Natural gas used for electricity generation is covered as one of the resources in the electricity resources chapter. And the economic regulation of natural gas as a commodity is covered in the chapter on economic regulation and market structure.

Chapters begin with a vocabulary section to help students with some of the basic terms and ideas they will encounter in the materials.  Most chapters also provide a “client issue” that frames how students should think about the materials they read.  In practice, attorneys generally learn about new issues or areas because a client has presented them a problem.  The client issue does not necessarily cover every area of the chapter, but it gives students an area of focus for their reading.

This has been a four-year project, and I’m excited to see it come to fruition. I have been teaching with most of the materials for a while, and I find that they work well in helping students connect with the concepts and ideas. The book is very much intended to guide students in their learning, and even their research, by providing materials they would likely use in practice.  Thus, EPA and state-level-agency materials, federal and state commission decisions, and other materials complement the more traditional law review articles and cases.  In addition, the appendices include graphs, statutes, and state permit examples so that students see additional materials they may not encounter in law school course work.

The PDF of the book is available now for consideration, and I welcome inquiries (my contact information is here).  A teacher’s manual is also being developed and materials will be made available by the end of the summer.  I am happy to share those materials on a rolling basis, as well, for those interested.

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