• Revision to Statute Provides Dispute Resolution Option
  • November 17, 2003 | Author: Kyle B. Beall
  • Law Firm: Kean Miller Hawthorne D'Armond McCowan & Jarman, L.L.P. - Baton Rouge Office
  • The Louisiana Legislature revised La. R.S. 2050.4 in the 2001 Legislative Session to allow the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality ("LDEQ") and a respondent to a compliance order or penalty assessment to mutually agree to enter into dispute resolution discussions. The revision allows the parties to continue to negotiate without the otherwise necessary filing of an application for de novo review in the 19th Judicial District Court.

    To challenge a compliance order or penalty assessment issued by LDEQ, parties are required to file a request for an adjudicatory hearing within 30 days after notice of the order or assessment. Prior to the revision, the Secretary of LDEQ was required to grant or deny the hearing request within 30 days of the filing of the request. If the Secretary of LDEQ did not grant the hearing, the respondent could file an application for de novo review in the 19th Judicial District Court. Filing an application for de novo review was necessary to protect the rights of the respondent.

    To provide more flexibility, La. R.S. 2050.4.E has been revised and now provides that the Secretary of LDEQ shall notify the person requesting the adjudicatory hearing that the request has been granted or denied within 30 days "unless the Secretary and the applicant have mutually agreed to enter into dispute resolution discussions in accordance with Subsection J of this section." New La. R.S. 2050.4.J.1 provides that if LDEQ and the respondent mutually agree to enter into dispute resolution discussions, they shall execute a written agreement prior to the expiration of the 30 days. The expiration date for conducting dispute resolution discussions can be agreed to by the parties but cannot exceed one year from the date the parties first execute the written agreement.

    New La. R.S. 2050.4.J.2 further provides that either party may withdraw from the resolution process by sending a written notice of withdrawal to the other party. If the dispute is not resolved within the period agreed upon (within the one-year maximum or by the date of the withdrawal of either party), the Secretary shall, within 30 days, notify the person requesting an adjudicatory hearing that the request has been granted or denied.