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  • Writer's pictureTade Oyewunmi


Updated: Oct 11, 2021

Two copies of the handbook on 'Decarbonisation and the Energy Industry' (Hart Publishing, 2020) came in through the mail over the holidays!

This post highlights the key takeaways from some of the interesting scholarly seminars relating to energy and decarbonization that were organized within the past couple of years.

Aligning Counteracting Interests in the US Context

One of the most intriguing energy project-related disputes in the US in 2020 centered around the United States Forest Service, et al., v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association, et al. 590 U. S (2020). In this case, Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (Atlantic) as the Petitioner, sought to construct an approximately 604-mile natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to North Carolina along a route that traversed 16 miles of land within the George Washington National Forest.

Atlantic had secured a special use permit from the United States Forest Service, obtaining a right-of-way for a 0.1-mile segment of the pipe some 600 feet below a portion of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AppalachianTrail or Trail), which also crosses the National Forest. The Respondents filed a petition for review in the Fourth Circuit, contending, among other things, that the issuance of the permit for the right-of-way under the Trail violated the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA). Atlantic intervened. The Fourth Circuit vacated the permit, holding that the MLA did not empower the Forest Service to grant the right-of-way because the Trail became part of the National Park System when the Secretary of the Interior delegated its authority over the Trail’s administration to the National Park Service and that the MLA prohibits pipeline rights-of-way through lands in the National Park System. On appeal, the US Supreme Court held that- because the Department of the Interior’s decision to assign responsibility for the Appalachian Trail to the National Park Service did not transform the land over which the Trail passes into land within the National Park System, the Forest Service had the authority to issue the special use permit.

Despite the obvious 'legal' victory, the project sponsors i.e. Dominion Energy Inc. and Duke Energy Corp., announced cancellation of the $8 billion multistate Atlantic Coast gas pipeline (ACP) after about six years of trying to complete the pipeline project. My thoughts on the plausible energy policy implications are included as part of the forthcoming paper titled ‘Natural Gas in a Carbon-Constrained World: Examining the Role of Institutions in Curbing Methane and Other Fugitive Emissions’ LSU Journal of Energy Law and Resources (Volume IX, Issue I, 2020)

Back to classroom matters...

In the Energy Law and Policy in Carbon-Constrained World class, I developed a suite of class activities that reflect the controversies leading to the ACP decision. Hence, students formed groups of three to four and all performed excellently in collaborative writing and seminar presentations as shown in some of their slides below. The bespoke scenario comprised a narrative in which a fictional Mr. X recently acquired Dominion Energy’s gas transmission and pipeline business while also contemplating the prospects of replicating a large-scale solar project (which was perfect in the desert area of Nevada) along the plains of the Blue Ridge Mountains or the George Washington National Forest area in Virginia. The various stakeholders and interests which were represented by students include Mr. X’s energy company, the Protectors of the Ridge, Virginia county residents, the state regulator, and the gas and decarbonization think tank.

Energy Transitions in China Seminar, 2019

As part of the Energy Law and Policy in Carbon-Constrained World class, I had the privilege of hosting a virtual seminar titled ‘Governing the energy transitions in China’ on November 20, 2019. Thankfully, we had Dr. Philip Andrews-Speed, Senior Principal Fellow at the Energy Studies Institute, the National University of Singapore as our special guest. Dr. Andrews-Speed spoke about the energy institutions and transitions in China. He is also one of the contributing authors to the 'Decarbonisation and the Energy Industry' handbook in Chapter 13. The two slides below show some of the very interesting issues covered during the virtual seminar.

The readings for the seminar were from the following sources

  1. Jacques deLisle, ‘Law in the China Model 2.0: Legality, Developmentalism, and Leninism under Xi Jinping’, Journal of Contemporary China 68-84, (2017)

  2. Philip Andrews-Speed and Sufang Zhang, ‘Governance in China’ in China as a Global Clean Energy Champion Lifting the Veil 69-103 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019)

  3. Philip Andrews-Speed and Sufang Zhang, China as a Global Clean Energy Champion Lifting the Veil: Goals and Achievements 17-32 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019)

Universal Energy Access in Africa Seminar, 2020

On November 23, 2020, the Energy Law and Policy in Carbon-Constrained World class had the honor of hosting Prof. Yinka Omorogbe (Nabo Graham Douglas Distinguished Professor, Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies

current President, Nigerian Association for Energy Economics). Prof. Omorogbe spoke about “Energy Transitions and Universal Energy Access in the African-context”. The primary reading for the seminar was from- ‘Universal Access to Modern Energy Services: The Centrality of the Law’ in Ending Africa’s Energy Deficit and the Law: Achieving Sustainable Energy for all in Africa, (Yinka Omorogbe and Ada Okoye Ordor eds., Oxford University Press, (2018). Some of the key takeaways from Prof. Omorogbe's lecture are highlighted in the following slides-

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