Using Dispute Resolution Techniques to Address Environmental Justice ConcernsCase Studies

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A leak at a petrochemical plant releases a plume of sulfuric acid across 15 square miles, sending 24,000 people to the hospital. A refinery releases more than 100 tons of a toxic substance over four communities for 16 days, causing neurological disorders, skin reactions, and eye problems. A neighborhood built over abandoned crude oil storage pits and exposed to hydrocarbons for 20 years experiences a wave of cancer and lupus cases. A railroad tanker car parked several yards from homes and a community center releases 3,300 gallons of hydrochloric acid into the air, causing the evacuation of 300 people.

For better or worse, these kinds of accidents and discoveries of contamination open a window of opportunity in which environmentally overburdened communities can engage with the industrial facilities in their midst. Advocates of environmental justice are learning how to take advantage of these moments, for they represent clear yet fleeting chances to improve environmental conditions, alter community-corporate relations, and consider more holistically the interests of those who reside in what are typically low-income communities of color.

But do such opportunities actually result in change for the better? Do these crises encourage improvements to plant safety, preparedness, emergency response capabilities, or citizen roles in mitigation, monitoring, and decision making? Traditionally, residents in over-burdened communities have responded to these kinds of crises with litigation, with mixed results.

This report looks at other means of redress. It contains six U.S. case studies that point to the growing use of “alternative dispute resolution” approaches within environmental justice communities, and illustrates the varying results achieved through these means. Its goal is to make sense of early efforts by residents to negotiate with the owners and operators of these facilities, to consolidate lessons learned and to present advice regarding community-corporate negotiation for future generations of activists, community-based organizations, regulators, elected officials, and researchers.

The case studies were commissioned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Justice and prepared by Gregg P. Macey and Lawrence Susskind of the Consensus Building Institute of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Susskind is the director of the MIT-Harvard Public Disputes Program. Macey was a 2001-2002 Program on Negotiation Graduate Research Fellow.

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

The purchase price and handling fee are the same for both soft and hard copies. Soft copies do not entail a shipping fee.

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 781-966-2751 (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 781-966-2751 (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, then you should order a single Teacher’s Package for that role simulation. A PDF, or soft copy, version of the Teacher’s Package is also available as a free download from the description page of most role simulations and case studies. There is no need to order participant materials as well as a Teacher’s Package, as 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. Please note that the materials in Teacher’s Packages are for the instructor’s review and reference only, and may not be duplicated for use with participants.

Ordering copies for multiple participants

If you wish 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 “Participant Copies.” There is no need to calculate how many of each role is required; 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 “Participant Copies.” 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.