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Facing fracking — 2013 Law Symposium opens discussion for community, law students on positive, negative implications of hydraulic fracturing in Idaho

Submitted by on 03.28.2013 – 9:58 pm

Last year, the Idaho legislature decided on the balance of power between Idaho state and local government as to who would have control over the citing hydraulic fracturing, according to Associate Professor and 2013 Law Symposium Faculty Adviser Stephen Miller.And that’s how University of Idaho law students Marc Bybee and Josh Sundloff chose this year’s symposium topic.

“We sent an email to professors in the law school and asked what legal issues are hot right now,” said Bybee, the symposium editor. “And hydraulic fracturing came up. We also learned that Idaho had recently passed fracking regulations, so fracking was relevant to Idaho.”

While Miller said hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is just beginning in Idaho, he said it is of regional significance, as there are large fracking locations in Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and Canada, too.

“With current technology, there is a limited area of hydraulic fracturing sites in Idaho. However, with advances in technology, more land may be frackable in Idaho in coming years,” Miller said. “It is important for Idaho attorneys to understand the issues now and … because the issues could become larger over time.”

Fracking is a technique used to release petroleum, natural gas and other substances through extraction by a pressurized fluid, such as water.

“Hydraulic fracturing uses enormous amounts of water,” Bybee said. “(Issues stem from) the right to use that much water, as well as the chemicals put into water.”

The morning panels of the symposium will address a variety of environmental issues.

“The first, with water, breaks down to two issues,” Miller said. “One, when you frack, is there an effect on drinking water? And two, the process requires the use of water, and also includes the use of chemicals. What happens to the water used in fracking itself?”

UI law professor Barbara Cosens will moderate water discussions between Joseph Dellapenna, a professor of law at Villanova University, and Robin Craig, University of Utah and William H. Leary professor of law, while UI law professor Jerrold Long will moderate air and land discussions between Jim Wedeking — Sidley Austin Staff Attorney, Carlos Romo — Baker Botts Associate and Elizabeth Burleson — Pace Law School professor.

When it comes to air, Miller said there is an issue in terms of emissions that could result from the fracking process and how it should be regulated.

“And then there’s the issue of what happens on land itself,” he said. “What happens with fracking and the role of sensitive species and the Endangered Species Act? (Sometimes there’s) not just one rig in isolation but potentially hundreds or thousands of rigs right next to each other.”

Other fracking discussions will include topics regarding science and technology, state and local government regulation, trespass and trade secrets and fracking’s possible role in a clean energy future.

“This year we’re lucky to have some of the leading experts on the issue,” Miller said. “Both from academics and practitioners — practicing lawyers.”

Bybee said a symposium edition of the Idaho Law Review will be released, which will include a handful of academic articles from symposium presenters and will allow people to review ideas of the presenters in depth.

Miller said the Boise-based symposium is sold out to a crowd of approximately 50 community members and 30 law students, but the event can be viewed online. This year, Bybee said the live stream hosts an option to ask questions, which the moderator can ask on behalf of the commenter.

For a full schedule of events, visit uidaho.edu/law/law-review/.

“The symposium is meant to give students a chance to really dig into a hot topic of the day,” Miller said. “The primary goal is educational for our students, but also to share knowledge with the community.”

Lindsey Treffry can be reached at arg-news@uidaho.edu

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