Environmental Dispute Resolution

All effort to regulate environmental quality at the federal, state and local level involve negotiations among regulators, regulatees and interested stakeholders. These usually occur in the context of government administrative efforts, but they sometimes spill over into a litigation context — either the government sues private actors for violating environmental regulations, interested stakeholders sue both the government and regulated industries, or different levels of government sue each other. Anyone studying environmental management, environmental engineering or environmental planning needs to learn how to negotiate environmental agreements. In recent years, a new category of environmental disputes has arisen. These focus on environmental justice (or environmental racism) claims. The six role play simulations included in this course outline cover not only environmental regulatory (and enforcement disputes), but resource allocation disputes as well (like who gets what share of scarce land or water resources).

The first simulation, Bog Berries, focuses on federal efforts to ensure compliance with national standards. The second, Madrona, illustrates what an environmental justice challenge to government decision-making looks like. Non-governmental actors play a central role in these disputes. The Public Health Impacts of Climate Change simulation put learners in the position of a local decision-makers (both governmental and non-governmental) trying to decide who to respond to the public health impacts of climate change. This kind of adaptation challenge will become increasingly common at the local level all around the world. Dirty Stuff II introduces the practice of negotiated rule-making — federal agencies involve a wide range of stakeholders in drafting the details of new regulations. Water Shutoffs puts learners in the difficult position of having to decide whether or not to shut off local water and sewer services to indigent residents who are unable to pay their water bills. While the question is posed as a negotiation challenge, it raises fundamental ethical issues. Puerto Mauricio presents a classic local land use planning problem as a political negotiation that needs to take account of scientific and technical concerns.

Recommended Simulations

Bog Berries, Inc. v. the Federal Environmental Agency: A Case of Compliance Negotiation

Bog Berries, Inc. v. the Federal Environmental Agency, by Catherine Preston and Lawrence Susskind, is a five-issue, five-hour negotiation between three factory representatives and three Federal Environmental Agency representatives over the factory’s new operational agreement, in the context of harsh public criticism of both parties. Bog Berries Inc. (Bog Berries), a large and successful cranberry products firm, has been accused of intentionally dumping toxins into sewers and waterways near its plant. The Federal Environmental Agency (FEA) filed felony charges under revisions of the Clean Water Act. An uneasy settlement deal was reached between Bog Berries and the FEA, but both parties have suffered considerable public relations damage and feelings are raw. Representatives from both sides must now negotiate the detailed stipulations of a new agreement that will allow Bog Berries to continue operation while meeting FEA requirements.

Siting an Asphalt Plant in the City of Madrona

Siting an Asphalt Plant in the City of Madrona, by Jason Corburn and Lawrence Susskind, is a six-party, two-hour, multi-issue negotiation among community representatives, elected leaders, environmental and health experts, and asphalt company regarding siting of an asphalt plant in a racially mixed neighborhood. Major lessons include fairness and equity, process vs. outcomes, long term and cumulative impacts, and stigma.

How to Handle the Public Health Impacts of Climate Change

How to Handle the Public Health Impacts of Climate Change, by Hannah Payne, Genea Foster, and Lawrence Susskind, is a seven-party, three-hour, role-play simulation involving a diverse set of stakeholders who must consider the short-term and long-term public health impacts of climate change while assessing the pros and cons of specific (and conflicting) risk management strategies. Mapleton, a city of 100,000, has just completed a Climate Vulnerability Assessment. The assessment shows that extreme heat and possible flooding associated with climate change pose substantial threats to the city. City officials asked an Advisory Group to suggest ways of preparing for possible emergencies and preventing injury and loss of life. The Advisory Group will have to wrestle with different risk management strategies and come to agreement if they want to have an impact.

Dirty Stuff II

Dirty Stuff II, by Jeffrey Litwak and Lawrence Susskind, is a six-person, three-hour, multi-issue facilitated negotiation among industry, environmental, consumer/community, labor, and government representatives to develop single-text regulation of toxic industrial by-product. Major lessons include contingent agreements, creating trade-offs, and the role of the facilitator.

Ethical Dilemmas Surrounding Water Shutoffs in Older American Cities

Ethical Dilemmas Surrounding Water Shutoffs in Older American Cities, by Winn Constantini, Emmett McKinney, Yasmin Zaerpoor, and Lawrence Susskind, is a six party, multi-issue negotiation involving environmental, political, economic and social interest groups, in a shrinking American city, where the water infrastructure is in desperate need of repair. This role-play simulation illustrates the ethical, financial and logistical challenges involved in trying to balance the need to maintain economically viable water services with the need to ensure that even the most vulnerable urban populations have access to clean water. It is intended for use by students, residents, community advocates, and teachers to draw attention to the ethical dilemmas surrounding water provision in many cities in the United States.

Puerto Maurico Development Conflict (part II)

Puerto Mauricio Development Conflict, by Mieke van der Wansem, Tracy Dyke and Lawrence Susskind, is a thirteen-person, five-hour, multi-issue, two-round, partially scoreable negotiation among government, industry, environmental, and farming stakeholders to develop a land-use plan, and among additional government stakeholders over plan approval. Major lessons include mutual gains, problem-solving dialogue, and strategic partnerships.

Recommended Books

Susskind, Levy, and Thomas-Larmer, Negotiating Environmental Agreements: How to Avoid Escalating Confrontation, Needless Costs and Unnecessary Litigation, Island Press, 2000.

Lawrence Susskind, Danya Rumore, Carri Hulet, Patrick Field, Managing Climate Risks in Coastal Communities: Strategies for Engagement, Readiness and Adaptation, Anthem Press, 2015.