The Incidental Environmental Agency

46 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2019

Date Written: March 5, 2019


State oil and gas conservation agencies are the gatekeepers to oil and gas development: as the agencies charged with granting drilling permits, they decide if, when, where, and how oil and gas will be developed. As such, oil and gas conservation agencies sit on the front lines in the emerging, and increasingly irresolvable, struggle between fossil energy development and the environment. Current oil and gas conservation regulation is designed to promote development, maximize recovery of the resource, and protect the individual property rights of mineral owners. However, advocacy by environmental constituencies, including surface owners and local governments, has challenged the entrenched paradigm whereby production must be maximized at the expense of all other interests. These efforts are pushing courts to redefine oil and gas conservation according to 21st century environmental values. This article examines the emergent environmental regulation function of oil and gas conservation agencies and identifies opportunities for these agencies to regulate according to their historic mandates in a manner that is inclusive of public values.

Keywords: environmental law, administrative law, permitting, conservation, oil and gas, environmental impacts, climate change, landowner rights, regulation, legislation

Suggested Citation

Righetti, Tara Kathleen, The Incidental Environmental Agency (March 5, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Tara Kathleen Righetti (Contact Author)

University of Wyoming College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 3035
Laramie, WY 82071
United States


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