Office of Dispute Resolution
401 East State Street, 7th Floor
P.O. Box 402
Mail Code 401-07
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402
Director: Raymond S. Papperman
Welcome to the Office of Dispute Resolution!
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. Our 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.
The following are some common questions about Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR):
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 involves 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.
Will litigation solve or end the problem between the DEP and my organization or me?
Will the litigated result be one which makes sense and one with which my organization or I will be comfortable?
Are there affected third parties that will be satisfied after the issue between DEP and my organization or me is resolved?
Can my organization or I justify the cost/benefit of litigating the matter?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, this is when you may want to consider alternative dispute resolution. If you enter into a formal mediation session, both your organization or you and the DEP must sign an agreement stating:
The parties will mediate in good faith.
Any mutually acceptable decision reached during the mediation will be binding and be an enforceable agreement under applicable statutes and regulations.
Mediation communications are confidential to the extent agreed by the parties or provided by other law or rule of this State.
Any statements and documents offered in mediation may not be used in subsequent proceedings to prove the validity or invalidity of a claim consistent with New Jersey Rule of Evidence 408.
The parties will not subpoena the mediator in any subsequent proceedings.
Yes. If you are seeking a contested case hearing before the Office of Administrative Law to challenge a DEP permit decision or enforcement action, you may also in the hearing request letter itself or in a letter submitted along with the hearing request to the DEP Office of Legal Affairs request that the case be considered for ADR. The Office of Legal Affairs will coordinate with the Office of Dispute Resolution related to the ADR request. While the ADR process is pending, the Office of Legal Affairs will not transmit the matter to the Office of Administrative Law for hearing. (NOTE: Checking the "willing to negotiate a settlement" box on a hearing request checklist indicates your willingness to negotiate settlement of the matter directly with the permitting or enforcement program. It will not be treated as a request for ADR under the auspices of the Office of Dispute Resolution.)
The Office of Dispute Resolution, a representative(s) from the pertinent DEP program and the person(s) from the affected party that has the authority to settle the matter should all participate in resolution sessions. The DEP program and affected party may also include their attorneys in the session.