• NJDEP Creates Office of Dispute Resolution
  • November 11, 2010 | Authors: George W. Crimmins; Jay P. Eversman; Michele Julie Glass; Marilynn R. Greenberg; Dennis J. Krumholz; Jillian Mooney; Samuel P. Moulthrop; Alexa Richman-La Londe; Steven T. Senior; Jeffrey B. Wagenbach
  • Law Firm: Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti LLP - Morristown Office
  • As discussed on earlier in this Environmental Update, the NJDEP has issued a Vision Plan and Priorities Statement setting forth a goal of making NJDEP a more responsive agency. Although the Vision Plan and Statement are light on concrete examples of how NJDEP intends to reform itself, on September 27, 2010 the Department announced the formation of an Office of Dispute Resolution, a key feature of Commissioner Bob Martin's reforms and designed to promote economic growth in New Jersey. The purpose of the Office of Dispute Resolution is to avoid litigation by finding common ground between NJDEP and the regulated community in disagreements.

    NJDEP decisions regarding permits or enforcement actions often lead to appeals in state courts or requests for hearings by the Office of Administrative Law ("OAL"), which itself can be a lengthy and procedure-bound process for resolving disagreements between the Department and the applicants or petitioners. The Office of Dispute Resolution was set up to resolve informally issues that may arise between NJDEP and the regulated community in areas such as permit issuance disagreements, penalty assessments and alleged failures to comply with permit conditions. The Office, however, will not have any authority to resolve challenges to NJDEP rules, regulations or informal policies, nor disputes between private parties.

    A party that seeks a hearing before the OAL to challenge an NJDEP determination may at the same time request that the case be considered for alternate dispute resolution within the Office of Dispute Resolution. OAL will coordinate with the Office of Dispute Resolution, and will not schedule a hearing while the mediation is occurring. Parties seeking mediation with NJDEP may include legal counsel as part of the process. The Office's mediator between the regulated community and NJDEP is Tina Layre, known to many in the field as a conscientious NJDEP veteran with experience in site remediation, cost recovery and enforcement issues. Although Ms. Layre is an NJDEP-appointed mediator, her role is to act as an impartial third party to assist the parties in solving their dispute.