Natural Resources Law

Current events and announcements

Former FERC Commissioner Bernie McNamee to teach at ASL

Former Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner Bernard McNamee has joined ASL as a visiting professor.

"I am honored to join ASL and thank Justice [Elizabeth] McClanahan, the Board and the faculty for this exciting opportunity," McNamee said in a statement. "Energy issues are a growing area of the law and the economy and I am excited to join ASL, work with its faculty and students, and contribute to ASL's leadership in energy and natural resources law."

Following his departure from FERC last September, McNamee rejoined McGuireWoods Consulting LLC as a senior adviser and partner in the firm, which has offices in Richmond, Va., and in Washington. McNamee, who will continue to work for McGuireWoods during his professorship, previously served as partner in the firm's regulatory and compliance section, where he aided electric and natural gas utilities in rate cases, among other duties.

Former Virginia Gov. George Allen (R), a member of ASL's board of trustees, welcomed McNamee, calling him a "five-star Professor."

"He is a smart, thoughtful, and positive person in every respect," Allen said in a statement. "I know students will benefit from his exceptional real-world knowledge and experience which he will no doubt impart with energy and precision."

Former President Trump appointed McNamee in 2018 to FERC, which oversees large-scale natural gas infrastructure and regional energy markets. McNamee announced his departure from the agency last August, expressing a desire to return to Richmond to spend more time with his family

[excerpted from E&E News Energywire]


ASL students compete at National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition.

ASL 3Ls Courtney Cole and Selina Barnhardt will compete at the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition (NELMCC) hosted by the Pace University School of Law February 17-19, 2021.  In a first, this year’s competition will be held virtually, via Zoom.

The NELMCC is one of the largest moot court competitions in the country, and has become the preeminent environmental law competition.  ASL has a history of strong performances at the NELMCC, with teams reaching the quarterfinals and the semifinals the past two years.


ASL partners with InvestSWVA, Virginia utilities, others to advance Southwest Virginia energy projects

The Appalachian School of Law has entered into a partnership with InvestSWVA and Appalachian Power and Dominion Energy, Virginia’s largest electric utilities, to advance energy storage technology and attract industry prospects to the region. The partnership also includes Mountain Empire Community College and the Southwest Virginia Energy Research and Development Authority.

ASL will lend its extensive educational and legal expertise in energy storage incentives around the country, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s new energy storage rule, and how energy storage is credited in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative market Virginia appears poised to enter.

“Ensuring that storage technology providers can participate in wholesale electric markets and be properly compensated for the value they bring, as well as their environmental benefits, requires complex legal guidance,” said Elizabeth McClanahan, Dean of the Appalachian School of Law and retired Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia. “The Appalachian School of Law looks forward to assisting in this partnership by navigating the rules from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Regional Transmission Organizations and state agencies in order to successfully deploy electric storage and be profitable.”

The project is part of three GO Virginia-supported energy projects to help establish the region’s credibility in attracting renewable, clean and zero-carbon projects.  The projects are being led by InvestSWVA, the Southwest Virginia Energy Research and Development Authority and the LENOWISCO Planning District Commission:

  • Project Innovation is developing the Southwest Virginia Energy Research Park, a first-of-its-kind operation in the United States that will host companies and entrepreneurs interested in proving and eventually commercializing their technology.
  • Project Energizer explores using pumped-storage hydro technology on a small, affordable scale and provides an opportunity for Southwest Virginia to leverage its topography as a competitive advantage.
  • Project Oasis highlights Southwest Virginia’s foothold in out-of-the-box thinking with the use of geothermal cooling technology with the billions of gallons of water collected in underground mines as a significant energy and cost-savings tool, not only for data centers but also for any industrial operation requiring robust power and water.

These projects benefit largely from the region’s considerable inventory of reclaimed surface mined properties plus adjacent underground mines. Congressman Morgan Griffith (R–VA9), a member of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, has led efforts to secure over $30 million in funding from the U.S. Office of Surface Mining’s Abandoned Mine Land Pilot Program to support land reclamation and economic development activities throughout the region. This funding will continue to play a strategic role in marketing Southwest Virginia as a leader in the new energy economy.

“Energy has been central to Southwest Virginia’s past, and this announcement shows how important it will be to Southwest Virginia’s future as well,” said Congressman Griffith. “Energy storage technology can make use of our existing assets to create jobs and power industries in the region.”

This partnership aligns with the goals of InvestSWVA’s legislative co-chairs when they created the Southwest Virginia Research and Development Authority during the 2019 General Assembly session.

“Southwest Virginia is a prime location for energy research and development activities that leverage our region’s talent and natural resources,” said Senator Ben Chafin. “Our legislative delegation is committed to seeing the region build on its long history of energy generation in order to grow our economy.”

“Partnering with Appalachian Power and Dominion Energy allows the region to connect research and economic development in order to drive energy innovation in Southwest Virginia,” said Delegate Terry Kilgore. “We should take an all-the-above approach to keep Southwest Virginia in a lead position.”

“Our region offers the energy storage industry a strategic location to not only research and prove technology but also manufacture it,” said Delegate Israel O’Quinn. “Southwest Virginia has the assets, workforce and incentives that are critical to attracting innovators and entrepreneurs.”

“The value of this partnership is a coordinated effort between Virginia’s largest utilities and the various economic development, workforce and policy leaders across the region,” said Senator Todd Pillion. “We are committed to leveraging our relationships in order to aggressively pursue energy storage technology development and manufacturing opportunities in Southwest Virginia.”

Coalfield Strategies, LLC, a one-stop economic development firm driving new business investment to Southwest Virginia, will coordinate on-the-ground efforts with the utilities. The firm leads InvestSWVA, a public-private business attraction and marketing campaign launched under the umbrella of the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, in addition to project development efforts for the Southwest Virginia Energy Research and Development Authority. Coalfield Strategies will use recently completed market research and key site data collected from its portfolio of energy projects to define why the region is attractive to the energy storage industry.

“Virginia’s utilities are best positioned to drive the development and deployment of energy storage technology,” said Will Payne, managing partner of Coalfield Strategies and InvestSWVA lead. “Our team is excited to work with Appalachian Power and Dominion Energy in attracting industry prospects to Southwest Virginia, and we have assembled partners that demonstrate the region’s desire to redefine itself as the energy innovation capital of the East Coast.”

Coalfield Strategies will continue to collaborate with the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, given the agency’s expertise in the region’s assets, including land, power and water. The firm will also tap two key statewide authorities in order to leverage industry relationships and expertise, including the Southwest Virginia Energy Research and Development Authority and the Virginia Solar Energy Development and Energy Storage Authority.

“Southwest Virginia is poised to drive energy storage technology development, and we are looking forward to working hand-in-hand with Appalachian Power and Dominion Energy to bring the region together around this opportunity,” said Mike Quillen, chair of the Southwest Virginia Energy Research and Development Authority. “Our team is going to think creatively and strategically on how to pair renewable energy generation with job-creating projects.”


ASL professors to judge environmental and energy moot court competitions

Professor and Associate Dean Mason Heidt will serve as a judge at the 2021 National Environmental Law Moot Court competition hosted by Pace University School of Law.

Professor and NRLC Director Buzz Belleville will serve as a judge at the 2021 Energy and Sustainability Moot Court competition hosted by West Virginia University School of Law.


ASL students virtually participate in energy and mineral law conference

Two student societies – the Energy and Mineral Law Society and the Environmental Law Society – organized the virtual participation of ASL students at the Energy and Mineral Law Foundation’s annual fall symposium.  The symposium is usually held in Lexington, Kentucky each October, and ASL regularly sends up to 20 students each year.  The 2020 symposium was held virtually.  The student organizations – led by Gabrielle Englander and Brielle MacKinley – arranged for a group link via the socially-distanced and pizza-fueled appellate courtroom, so that ASL students could network with energy law professionals from around the Appalachian region.


ASL partners with Virginia Tech for another exciting class offering

ASL strives for academic excellence by offering experiential learning opportunities and fostering innovative problem solving. Our newest course offering in Natural Resources Law is a prime example. For the Spring 2020 semester, ASL has partnered with Virginia Tech’s Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering to offer an exciting new course – Natural Resources: Why Lawyers and Engineers Need Each Other.

This class, which is taught by Professor Mark “Buzz” Belleville, Director of ASL’s Natural Resources Law Program, and Dr. Kray Luxbacher, Charles T. Holland Professor and Associate Head of Virginia Tech’s Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering, analyzes the legal and engineering components of projects, programs and permits involving our natural resources. For instance, an attorney applying for a SMCRA permit for new mining project will need an engineer to create a reclamation plan upon mine closure. An engineer designing a pipeline crossing under a scenic trail will need a lawyer to explain what standards the design must meet under the National Trails System Act. Designing underground mines to comply with MSHA, soil erosion plans to comply with NEPA, and coal ash impoundments to comply with the Clean Water Act and local zoning laws are among the many other instances where lawyers and engineers need to work collaboratively.

We look forward to working with Virginia Tech to offer more cutting-edge classes in the future!


Natural Resources Law Center hosts industry career panel.

On November 1st, in the Appellate Courtroom from 12:10 PM to 1:30 PM, the Natural Resources Law Center will host members of the Energy and Mineral Law Foundation for a ‘Careers in Energy Program.’ All panel members are practicing attorneys in the field of energy law and will provide students with invaluable insights into practicing energy law.

For more information on the ASL Natural Resources Law Center, please contact us at: (276) 244-1240, or