Lessons Learned from Two Decades of Alternative Dispute Resolution Programs and Processes at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


Political Science and International Affairs

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Mediation, facilitation, and other alternative dispute resolution (ADR) techniques are being used in federal agencies, state and local governments, private-sector organizations, and among private citizens in an effort to prevent and resolve disputes in a timely, cost-effective, and less adversarial manner. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), one of the pioneers in the application of ADR processes and techniques to public policy disputes, recently announced that it plans to increase the use of ADR techniques and practices across all agency programs.

This article reports the results of a four-part evaluation of the use of ADR in enforcement actions at the EPA during the last two decades. Funded by the Hewlett Foundation, this effort utilized in-depth telephone interviews, government statistics, and archival records. The four groups interviewed were EPA's alternative dispute resolution specialists, potentially responsible parties (defendants) to EPA enforcement lawsuits, mediators and facilitators to EPA cases, and agency enforcement attorneys who had participated in agency enforcement ADR processes. Concluding that there are generally high levels of satisfaction with the EPA's enforcement ADR program, this article examines the sources of obstacles and assistance to ADR efforts at the EPA, suggests ways in which the EPA might improve its ADR programs, and draws lessons from the EPA's experiences that may be helpful to other public programs or organizations.

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Public Administration Review

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