Jan. 29, 2014- A team from the University of Georgia took home the title of National Champion in the 6th annual Andrews Kurth Moot Court National Championship. The competition was hosted by the Blakely Advocacy Institute at the University of Houston Law Center and sponsored by Andrews Kurth LLP. Maggy Randels and Utrophia Robinson of UGA won against 15 of the nation’s top moot court programs. South Texas College of Law took second place and the “Best Brief” Award; Zach Tafoya of Pepperdine University and Michael Meyer of Loyola Chicago shared the “Best Speaker” award. The tournament was held Jan. 23-25.
The field was comprised of teams from Baylor University Law School, Chicago Kent College of Law, Florida Coastal School of Law, Georgetown University Law School, Loyola University Chicago School of Law, Michigan State University College of Law, New York University School of Law, Pepperdine University School of Law, Seton Hall School of Law, SMU School of Law, South Texas College of Law, Stetson University College of Law, Texas Tech University School of Law, Ohio State University College of Law, University of California Hasting College of Law, and the University of Georgia School of Law.
Guest judges for the final round were U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judges James Graves Jr. and Jennifer Walker Elrod, Texas Supreme Court Justices John Devine, Jeff, Brown and Jeffrey Boyd, and former Texas Supreme Court Justice and current Andrews Kurth partner Scott Brister.
This year’s moot court problem focused on hydraulic fracturing and the National Environmental Policy Act. As part of the three-day championship activities, participating teams were invited to participate in a symposium related to the same topic.
The symposium titled “Fracking: The Cost of Energy Independence” was held on Jan. 23. UH Law Center Professor Jacqueline Weaver moderated a panel of speakers including Stephen Holditch, Robert Howarth, William Wood, and Ann Alexander.
Holditch, former director of the Texas A&M Energy Institute, described the equipment, preparation, and process of hydraulic fracking, including the evolution of fluid used in the fracturing process, and the associated environmental concerns. He also discussed the oil industry’s efforts to respond to criticisms and improve the fracking process.
Howarth, the David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology & Environmental Biology at Cornell University, discussed the negative and environmental effects of shale gas including the release of green house gases, notably methane. Howarth said his research concluded that emissions associated with shale gas production are harmful to air quality and contribute to climate change, and he advocated for using alternative, clean energy sources.
Wood, head of Norton Rose Fulbright’s Energy and Infrastructure group in the United States, provided a perspective of the law and policy involved in hydraulic fracturing, including the types of litigation in fracking and oil and gas development like claims of trespass, personal injury, and property damage from earthquakes. Wood also discussed the policy concerns of fracking, like lease of federal lands, mortgages on land with oil and gas leases, and the development of state level regulations.
Alexander, senior attorney with the Midwest Program of the Natural Resources Defense Council, called for careful and stringent regulation of hydraulic fracturing. Alexander said the science was not yet developed enough to determine if there are negative health and environmental impacts associated with fracking, and that the Natural Resources Defense Council’s position is that new development should be slowed or stopped until the science can determine what effects, if any, fracking has on health and the environment. She discussed the difficulty in proving causation in litigation and settlement of many cases involving shale activity, and said a lack of baseline data contributed to the difficulty of linking oil and gas production to contamination issues. She also discussed state and federal regulations regarding fracking.
The moot court tournament and symposium were sponsored by Andrews Kurth, the University of Houston Law Center’s Blakely Advocacy Institute, the Environment, Energy & Natural Resources Center, Edison McDowell & Hetherington, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the University of Houston Law Alumni Association.
For additional information, visit the Championship’s website at law.uh.edu/blakely/mcnc/homepage.asp.
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