Are you headed to court with the NJDEP or think you might be? Are there any alternatives?
Perhaps - Per the NJDEP website, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has established the Office of Dispute Resolution to provide a forum other than the administrative and trial courts for resolution of disagreements between the regulated community and the DEP.
This forum aims to serve a dual purpose: not only to reduce lengthy legal proceedings that can be costly for all involved, but also to establish more meaningful and effective lines of communication between environmental regulators and the regulated community. Their mission is to ensure fair and efficient management and settlement of disagreements through alternative dispute resolution processes.
The goals of the Office of Dispute Resolution are to:
define and clarify issues disputed;
facilitate communication between regulated parties and DEP staff;
encourage collaborative problem-solving;
explore options for resolution to the issues; and
promote and document a mutually satisfactory agreement.
How does it work? Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) brings together parties to resolve disagreements without the need for legal or administrative intervention. The Office of Dispute Resolution engages in two common forms of ADR:
Facilitation involving an informal meeting between the individual or organization and the DEP program to ascertain if the parties can mutually resolve whatever differences separate them. The Office of Dispute Resolution structures the meeting so that it focuses on the issues and the ultimate goal, which may be to remediate a site, set a permit compliance schedule or resolve technical issues.
Mediation involves the affected parties developing a joint resolution of the problem and agreeing on a future course of action. The Office of Dispute Resolution acts as an impartial third party to help the parties’ collaboratively problem-solve and explore options for resolution that may not previously have been considered.
Do you have an issue that might benefit from this approach? Are you open to having a conversation with Baron to see if this might possibly be an approach for you?