Associate Professor, University of Wyoming College of Law

Tara K. Righetti

Interviewer: James Coleman
Interview date: May 23, 2020
Keywords: Conservation Agencies, Well Placement, Directional Drilling

Oil & Gas Commissions as 'Incidental' Environmental Agencies

by Tara Righetti

“Well placement is one of those critical environmental issues. … In 2019 the Colorado legislature completely overhauled its conservation statute … to require much more involved consultation processes with homeowners, landowners and municipalities. … [Localities can impose] bigger setbacks and other requirements …The most radical step they took was to find that the [state oil and gas] commission … could prohibit development even if it might result in nonproduction.  That is really a 180 degree turn from what you had before.

 “We are seeing [oil and gas agencies] being remade more in the shape of an environmental agency with environmental expertise rather than expertise in the reservoir and production side. … While the conservation agencies have been a little resistant to expand into environmental areas …, courts have taken a more liberal look at this and said that these are legitimate concerns that should be permitted.”

“One of the reasons I wanted to look at this was to invite people to take more notice of the environmental regulatory role of these state agencies, and of opportunities at the state conservation agency for environmental advocacy as well as for collaborative processes that might find new solutions to environmental goals and still allow development to go forward. … I argue that the conservation agencies already have a lot of tools at their disposal … to really protect the environment and make good environmental decisions without becoming a climate regulator …”

Tara Righetti joined the University of Wyoming College of Law faculty in the fall of 2014, where she teaches classes related to oil and gas and commercial law. Professor Righetti’s research focuses on legal issues related to oil and gas regulation, land use, contracts, and development.

To learn more about Tara Righetti, please visit her home page: HERE