News Types: Press Releases

Center for Global Energy, International Arbitration and Environmental Law at the University of Texas School Releases Report on How the Endangered Species Act Influences Groundwater Law and Protects Springflow in Texas

December 19, 2014

AUSTIN, Texas – The Center for Global Energy, International Arbitration and Environmental Law (Energy Center) at the University of Texas School of Law released a report today entitled “How the Endangered Species Act Influences Groundwater Law and Protects Springflow in Texas” by Vanessa Puig-Williams, an Austin-based legal consultant with expertise in Texas environmental law. The report was written under the direction of Professor Melinda E. Taylor, the Energy Center’s executive director.

When an endangered species is present in a spring, can the Endangered Species Act (ESA) influence groundwater management and protect springflow? What regulatory tools can a groundwater conservation district utilize to protect springflow to ensure the long-term survival of rare species? What potential legal vulnerabilities do groundwater districts face if they fail to do so? What options are available under the ESA for the districts to obtain authorization for unavoidable harm to the species? In this paper, the author explores the significant and developing relationship between groundwater management and endangered species protection. The author concludes that depending on how one looks at it, the ESA can be either the carrot or the stick – prompting groundwater conservation districts that preside over springs containing listed species to develop desired future conditions that protect springflow and ensuring that springflow protections remain in the future. To read the full report, visit

In April 2014, the Energy Center published a study entitled “The Conflict between Endangered Species and the State Water Plan: Will New Listings under the Endangered Species Act Thwart the State Water Planning Process?” In this study, authors Vanessa Puig-Williams and Melinda E. Taylor explored the potential for new water projects included in the State Water Plan. The authors concluded that, with the exception of projects in the upper Brazos River where the habitat of two endangered species of minnow are located, the additional listings in Texas would be unlikely to result in clashes between the ESA’s requirements and new water projects, because almost all of the Texas aquatic species on the Service’s work plan are dependent on groundwater and located in areas where no new projects have been proposed. To read the full report, visit

The Energy Center’s mission is to educate students about the law, policy, and commercial realities related to the production of energy, protection of natural resources, and the use of international arbitration to resolve commercial disputes related to energy. In addition to offering a robust course curriculum, the Center sponsors interdisciplinary research and policy analyses and provides a forum for lawyers, scientists, economics, policy makers, and stakeholders to explore solutions to the world’s most pressing energy and environmental issues. Beginning in January 1, 2015, the Center will become the Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Energy, Law, and Business, an innovative interdisciplinary project of the School of Law and the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin. For more information, please visit

For more information, contact: Vanessa Puig-Williams at or the Energy Center at

KBH Energy Center Unveils Updated SSRN eLibrary

Did you know that the KBH Energy Center has an updated SSRN eLibrary? Here you’ll be able to read and download nearly 60 papers on energy, law, and business by the KBH Energy Center’s affiliated faculty.

Social Science Research Network (SSRN) is devoted to the rapid worldwide dissemination of social science research and is composed of a number of specialized research network in each of the social sciences.

Subscribe to receive the KBH Energy Center’s quarterly eJournal, which currently has 15,000 subscribers.

McCombs School of Business Hosts National Energy Finance Challenge (NEFC)

For the past ten years, the McCombs School of Business has hosted the National Energy Finance Challenge (NEFC). This year’s competition took place on October 17th at the Texas Union in front of a panel of judges selected by major energy corporations. The competition revolved around a business case designed by Chevron. The students had 72 hours to complete two tasks, a full analysis of the case and a presentation of their solution. The case presented asked students to consider several different investment opportunities, as well as potential divestments across several different regions. Students were presented with numerous data points and provided quantitative and qualitative analysis on wide-ranging topics, from production and cash flow to political considerations to arrive at their strategy. The competing universities included some of the top business schools in the country, including MIT, Ross, Darden, Columbia, Wharton, Kenan-Flagler, Tepper, Rice, Purdue, Cornell, Chicago Booth, Tuck, and UCLA.

However, none of these schools were able to top the home team from the McCombs School of Business. Named “Drilling and Thrilling,” the team consisted of five members: Kirk Sisco, Joung Park, Kyle Gabb, Robert Buckwalter, and Eric Franco. The teams in second and third were “Proven Power Resources” from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and “Oil and GAAP” from the New York University Stern School of Business. It should be noted that the McCombs School of Business students have come in first place in the last four out of five case challenges.

The University of Texas at Austin’s Energy Poll released the latest findings on October 28th, providing unique insight into how energy issues might influence the Midterm elections

The University of Texas at Austin’s Energy Poll released the latest findings on October 28th, providing unique insight into how energy issues might influence the Midterm elections.

The latest survey was conducted September 4-16, revealing that 82 percent of Americans say energy issues influence the candidates they choose. A key finding widely reported in the media was that younger and older Americans have distinct priorities regarding energy and federal spending. For example, forty-one percent of survey respondents under age 35 say the U.S. should permit export of natural gas to other countries, while just 22 percent of those age 65 and older support the policy. The online poll also corroborates a longstanding trend among likely voters: A much higher percentage of older respondents (87 percent) indicate they were likely to vote in the Nov. 4 election, compared with 68 percent of those age 35 or under. “Consumer perspectives on energy issues continue to track political party lines, but we’re seeing a widening gulf among older and younger Americans,” said Sheril Kirshenbaum, director of the UT Energy Poll. The generational divide surfaces in several areas, particularly the importance of environmental protection and support for renewable forms of energy:

  • Fifty-six percent of younger consumers say they are willing to pay much higher prices to protect the environment, compared with only 20 percent of respondents age 65 and older.
  • Sixty-eight percent of survey respondents under age 35 say they would be more likely to vote for candidates who support steps to reduce carbon emissions, compared with 50 percent of those age 65 and older.
  • Support for renewable sources of energy is considerably stronger among younger consumers, with nearly 2 out of 3 (65 percent) favoring an expansion of financial incentives for companies engaged in renewable technologies. Less than half of older respondents (48 percent) say they would support candidates who endorse such incentives. Likewise, 62 percent of younger respondents favor requiring utilities to obtain a percentage of their electricity from renewable sources, versus 48 percent of older voters.
  • Younger consumers also strongly support subsidies for renewable energy, with 72 percent saying they back federal government support, compared with 58 percent among Americans age 65 and older.
  • Fifty-two percent of respondents 65 and older say they are familiar with hydraulic fracturing for fossil fuel extraction, compared with 39 percent of younger Americans.  Among those familiar with the term, only 37 percent of younger survey respondents support its use, compared with more than half (52 percent) of Americans age 65 and older.

Tax Spending Chart

For complete online survey results, charts and other information, visit