Environmental Role-Play:

DEC v. Riverside


David Lax, James Sebenius, Lawrence Susskind, and Thomas Weeks

Two-party, multi-issue, scoreable negotiation between a manufacturer and a state environmental agency to reach a settlement over the manufacturer's pollution of a local river


Please note: you must order a copy (a.k.a. license/usage fee) for every person participating in the simulation in your course. This simulation has multiple roles, so you will be unable to complete your purchase without meeting the minimum quantity requirement of copies per role.

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PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center

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Soft copy vs. hard copy

You may order this role simulation in either soft copy (electronic) or hard copy (paper) format. If you select the soft copy option, you will receive an e-mail with a URL (website address) from which you may download an electronic file in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. You will have one week to download your materials from when you receive the email. You are then only authorized to use, print, or share the materials as many times as the number of copies you purchase. The TNRC charges for use of this simulation on a per-participant basis. Therefore, you must purchase a separate copy of this simulation for each person who will be participating, regardless of the number of roles in the simulation. You will only receive a link to one electronic file, which includes all general instructions, confidential instructions, and any teaching notes for the simulation. You should separate out the instructions before distributing to participants.

If you select the hard copy option, you will receive paper copies of this role simulation via the shipping method you select.

For additional information about the soft copy option, please visit our FAQ section, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at tnrc@law.harvard.edu or 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.) or 301-528-2676 (outside the U.S.).

Please note: At the present time, Teaching Negotiation Resource Center soft copies are compatible with the following versions of the Adobe Acrobat Reader: English, German, French, Spanish, Swedish, Portuguese, Japanese, and Korean. If you have a different version of the Acrobat Reader, you may wish to download one of these at http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at tnrc@law.harvard.edu, 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.), or 301-528-2676 (outside the U.S.) for further assistance. This restriction does not apply to the freely available Teacher’s Package Review Copies.

Ordering a single copy for review

If you wish to review the materials for a particular role simulation to decide whether you’d like to use it, a PDF, or soft copy, version of the Teacher’s Package for the simulation is available as a free download from the description page of most role simulations and case studies. All Teacher’s Packages include copies of all participant materials. In addition, some Teacher’s Packages (but not all) include additional teaching materials such as teaching notes or overhead masters.

Ordering copies for multiple participants

To order multiple copies of a role simulation for use in a course or workshop, simply enter the total number of participants in the box next to “Quantity.” There is no need to calculate how many of each role is required.

If you are ordering hard copies, the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center will calculate the appropriate numbers of each role to provide, based on the total number of participants. For example, if you wish to order a 2-party role simulation for use with a class of 30 students, you would enter “30” in the box next to “Quantity.” You then would receive 15 copies of one role and 15 copies of the other role, for use with your 30 participants. As another example, if you ordered 30 participant copies of a 6-party role simulation, you would receive 5 copies of each role.

In the event that the number of participant copies you order is not evenly divisible by the number of roles in the simulation, you will receive extra copies of one or more roles. Participants receiving the extra roles may partner with other participants playing the same role, thus negotiating as a team. So, for instance, if you ordered 31 copies of a 2-party role simulation, you would receive 15 copies of the first role and 16 copies of the second role. One of the participants playing the second role would partner with another participant playing that same role, and the two would negotiate as a team.

Bulk Pricing Discount

For bulk orders, we offer the following pricing discounts. Please note that these only apply to bulk orders of the same simulation.

  • Between 100-250 copies – 10% discount
  • Between 251-500 copies – 25% discount
  • More than 500 copies – 50% discount
Log In or Register to download the free Teacher's Package Sample.


Riverside Lumber is a pulp manufacturer in a small town in the Pacific Northwest. Riverside regularly dumps effluent into a nearby river. The Division of Environmental Conservation (DEC) claims that the effluent is toxic and jeopardizes the local salmon catch. Relations between the two parties have deteriorated. DEC has filed suit against Riverside in an attempt to close the plant. The trial date is three days away, and the parties are meeting to see if a last minute settlement is possible. Several issues will surface in the negotiation: Should Riverside be forced to purchase a special scrubber to neutralize the toxic effects of its effluent? Should Riverside be forced to close temporarily or permanently? Can DEC provide Riverside financial incentives to encourage cooperation?



  • A discussion of the game, "DEC v. Riverside" — David Lax
  • An analysis of players' scores from an actual run of the "DEC v. Riverside" role simulation, which is included in the video's teaching notes. (85 minutes)



The game can be played with one or two negotiators per side. No game manager is needed. Game instructions require at least 30 minutes to read. For thorough preparation, more time is suggested. Negotiations require at least 90 minutes; more time is preferable. Allow 60-90 minutes for review.



  • Even though the two parties are likely to settle, the agreements they reach are typically far from optimal. Pareto-optimal scores can be displayed in this game. The players can then explore how and why superior agreements were not found. The concept of the pareto frontier can be developed.
  • The concept of Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) is illustrated, since each side is given the information it needs to calculate the expected value of going to court. This can be compared to the value of possible negotiated agreements.
  • Unless the parties cooperate (i.e., seek to respond to each other's most important interests), possible joint gains will be lost. The comparative advantages of cooperative versus competitive negotiation strategies can be illustrated. The tension between the urge to cooperate to claim value and the urge to compete to claim individual advantage is nicely illustrated. This allows for an extensive discussion of strategies for eliciting cooperation without making oneself vulnerable.
  • The role of both shared and conflicting interests in creating joint gains is also illustrated. (Trading less important interests for more important interests is critical to achieving a pareto-optimal agreement).



For all parties:

  • General Instructions


Role Specific:

Confidential Instructions for:

  • Riverside Lumber
  • DEC


Teacher's Package (55 pages total):

  • All of the above
  • Pareto curve
  • Teacher's Note



BATNA; Bluffing; Communication; Competition v. Cooperation; Confidentiality; Constituents; Cost-benefit analysis; Decision analysis; Fairness; Information exchange; Interest analysis; Interests, quantifying; Joint gains; Litigation analysis; Managing uncertainty; Media; Meeting design; Misrepresentation; Negotiator's Dilemma; Objective criteria; Offers, first; Options, generating; Pareto optimization; Power imbalance; Pressure tactics; Reservation price; Risk perception; Systems of negotiation; Threats; Time constraints

DEC v. Riverside Attributes

Time required: 2-3 hours
Number of participants: 2
Teams involved: No
Agent present: None
Neutral third party present: None
Scoreable: Yes
Teaching notes available: Yes