FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) - Alternative Dispute Resolution

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[edit] General Information

  • Official name: FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) - Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Country: USA
  • City: Washington
  • Type of organization: Non-profit organization
  • Date of creation: 1947
  • Interests: Mediation – Arbitration - Training
  • Fields of expertise: Business, Workplace and Labor Disputes

[edit] Description

“When parties are involved in a conflict, they may initially attempt to resolve the matter themselves. If they are unable to do so, the traditional dispute resolution process is to engage in litigation. Thus, they turn the problem over to a judge to decide who is right, who is wrong (i.e., who has the better position). However, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) offers a variety of methods to resolve the matter though settlement instead of litigation. It is a voluntary process where parties, with the aid of a third party neutral, focus on achieving a mutually satisfactory solution rather than on determinating who has the stronger position. ADR usually involves a third party neutral who helps the parties design a process that they believe will aid them in finding mutually acceptable solutions to their disputes.”

At FERC, the following groups assist parties with ADR:

  • Dispute Resolution Service: The Dispute Resolution Service (DRS) is a small service-oriented team that promotes timely and high quality resolutions of disputes through consensual decision-making. The DRS has two major functions:
  • To provide services such as mediation and facilitation in disputes involving entities subject to the Commission's jurisdiction. All communications with DRS representatives are privileged and confidential, unless otherwise agreed. DRS staff is not involved in the Commission's decisional processes, and does not advocate positions or conduct investigations.
  • To promote the use of ADR both within and outside of the Commission through activities such as consultation, workshops, collaboration, training, and coaching.
  • Administrative Law Judges and FERC Trial Staff: Under the Commission's rules, Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) can serve as settlement judges and can conduct settlement negotiations, mediation, facilitation, and arbitration, as well as evaluate and certify settlements. FERC Trial Staff also plays a major role in helping parties to resolve disputes and settle cases. This assistance is primarily achieved through the use of early neutral evaluation techniques.
  • Enforcement Hotline: The Enforcement Hotline invites market participants and the general public to call, email or write the Hotline to complain or report market activities or transactions that may be an abuse of market power, an abuse of an affiliate relationship, a tariff violation, or another possible violation by a FERC regulated entity.

[edit] Dispute Resolution Service (DRS)

The Dispute Resolution Service (DRS) is a professional team that promotes timely and high quality resolution of disputes through consensual decision-making processes such as mediation. The DRS Specialists are highly trained in mediation, negotiation, and facilitation. They also provide training in dispute resolution skills.

The DRS has three major functions:

  • To provide services such as mediation and facilitation in disputes involving entities subject to the Commission's jurisdiction. All communications with DRS representatives are privileged and confidential, unless otherwise agreed. DRS staff is not involved in the Commission's decisional processes, does not advocate positions, or conduct investigations. Its goal is to resolve issues in a manner that is satisfactory to all parties to a dispute.
  • To assist landowners and applicants in resolving disputes relating to the construction and operation of FERC jurisdictional natural gas and liquefied natural gas facilities. These disputes may involve issues such as the proper restoration of a pipeline’s construction right-of-way or concerns pertaining to noise levels at a compressor station. DRS also helps landowners resolve disputes involving environmental, recreational and other matters that may arise during the licensing or relicensing of a FERC jurisdictional hydroelectric project.
  • To promote the use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) both within and outside of the Commission through activities such as consultation, workshops, collaboration, training, and coaching.

[edit] DRS Casework

The DRS can become involved in a dispute either when the Commission assigns a case to the DRS or when entities contact the DRS for help to initiate ADR processes. The DRS then communicates with the parties about exploring the use of ADR. If an interest exists, the DRS will convene the parties and explain the ADR options available to them. The parties may also select a third party neutral from inside or outside the Commission and define the role the third party neutral will have. It is recommended that final ADR design be completed with the selected third party neutral.

During the convening session, the DRS representative acts as a guide, helps the parties understand the process, gets the process started, and aids in the selection of a third party neutral. While the DRS will not maintain a roster of third party neutrals, it will provide sources of other neutrals such as the Commission's administrative law judges, and the rosters maintained by groups (e.g., the American Arbitration Association, CPR: International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution, and the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution). The parties may also consider other national and regional sources for an appropriate neutral. If the parties choose a third party neutral other than the DRS representative to proceed with an ADR process, the DRS representative will step out of the picture, and the parties' choice will continue the process.

The Dispute Resolution Service has been active in a wide variety of issues such as environmental matters, contractual disagreements, landowner disputes, and billing discrepancies in all areas of the Commission's regulatory responsibilities.

[edit] DRS Outreach

[edit] Consultation

The DRS actively promotes the values of ADR and the DRS program. DRS has offered its services to, and have been asked to consult with, a variety of entities on the use of ADR in jurisdictional matters and other matters related to the Commission's work.

[edit] Collaboration

The DRS participates in partnerships with various government ADR offices and other entities. These include the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution (Institute), which aids parties through assisted negotiation and mediation in resolving environmental conflicts that involve federal agencies or interests. The DRS also assists the Institute in coordinating with other federal agencies that address environmental matters, and supporting Institute programs that relate to FERC's mission.

The DRS is active on the Interagency ADR Working Group Steering Committee, the Federal Government's central forum for advancing ADR. The Committee, which consists of ADR professionals and experts from at least 26 federal agencies, coordinates multi-agency ADR initiatives, promotes best practices for federal ADR, and conducts discourse on and disseminates information regarding federal policy on ADR. The DRS Director chairs the Civil Enforcement and Regulatory Section of that committee. The Director also has overseen the committee's preparation of a briefing paper on ADR use in the federal sector.

The DRS has also worked with the Department of Interior's Office of Collaborative Action and Dispute Resolution, the Environmental Protection Administration's Conflict Resolution and Prevention Center, and other federal and state agencies that regulate energy and environmental matters.

Finally, DRS staff participates in the Shared Neutrals Program, managed through the Department of Health and Human Services. The program provides low cost, high quality neutrals to Federal agencies for workplace disputes. It provides an option when an agency has no "in-house" mediators or when a party questions the neutrality of a mediator employed by the agency.

[edit] ADR Training Programs

  • One of the DRS's key functions is promoting alternative dispute resolution through education and training both within and outside of FERC.
  • The DRS conducts or sponsors a number of training programs designed to advance the Commission staff's understanding of ADR and its negotiation and facilitation skills in meetings with the public and with other staff members.
  • From time to time, the DRS also provides ADR training for participants of collaborative processes, informational workshops for stakeholders in jurisdictional processes, and corporate staffs of regulated entities. The DRS also provides training for other state and federal agencies, as requested.
  • DRS staff also has provided training support in ADR and conflict management at the OPM Executive Training Center in Sheppardstown, West Virginia.
  • The DRS believes that these efforts should result in an increased use of ADR techniques in negotiations and dispute resolution and greater use of mediation and/or facilitation as appropriate. In turn, these techniques should result in faster dispute resolution, better, longer-lasting agreements and improved relationships among members of the industries and the entities that interact with them.

[edit] Contact

888 First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20426 – USA

Tel: 202-502-8831

Email: ferc.adr@ferc.gov

Official Website

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