In Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), the informal dispute resolution process, each involved party mutually agrees to meet with a professional third party to constructively and efficiently resolve their dispute rather than go to court. Through ADR, the parties are encouraged to engage in
negotiations that promptly lead to the resolution of their dispute. The most common forms of ADR are mediation and arbitration. Although ADR is usually conducted on a voluntary basis, sometimes the courts require it before the case is taken to court.
Since the political and civil unrest in the 1960s, there has been a rapid growth of ADR in the United States. The new laws that protected individual rights and lack of tolerance for discrimination brought more people to lawsuits. The significant increase of lawsuits overloaded the court system with long delays. Mediation and arbitration became more popular as they alleviated some of the pressure on the court system. (Spangler, 2003)
Today, ADR is used in several types of disputes in the United States. One example of successful conflict resolution involved the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and NIBCO, Inc. This resulted in a $750,000 settlement in 1996. The dispute lasted over two years and was close to an administrative hearing and possible litigation.
NIBCO is “a worldwide manufacturer of flow control products for residential, commercial construction, industrial, and irrigation markets.” (NIBCO, Inc., 2007, 1) NIBCO’s products are manufactured by pouring molten brass into sand molds. The sand is then contaminated with lead and cadmium leaching from the brass. At the facility in Nacogdoches, Texas, NIBCO added iron fillings to the sand and then disposed of it in a municipal landfill.
Using the guidelines outlined in their toxicity characteristic leaching procedure, EPA determined that the sand was hazardous waste. EPA also concluded that NIBCO was in violation of Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations since the sand was not treated with a permit. NIBCO disagreed. Their position stated that the sand’s treatment was part of the manufacturing process and not a waste; therefore, the treated sand was not hazardous waste.
Under authority of RCRA, EPA filed an administrative enforcement action seeking injunctive relief and a $2.2 million penalty from NIBCO. Both sides prepared their case for an administrative law judge. As the hearing date approached, NIBCO was willing to change their treatment and disposal procedures. However, both parties could not agree on a penalty amount.
NIBCO suggested mediation in order to avoid expense and the uncertainty of a hearing outcome. Since both parties agreed on Howard Seitzman as a mediator, EPA was agreeable to mediation. A one-day mediation session was scheduled. Progress during the first day of mediation appeared fruitless. As EPA attempted to compromise, NIBCO did not make motion toward a solution. At the end of the day, there was no resolution. After a few days, NIBCO contacted Mr. Seitzman with a settlement offer to be expressed to EPA. After several days of exchanges through Mr. Seitzman, EPA and NIBCO came to a penalty resolution of $750,000 in payments over a four-year period. Also, NIBCO agreed to remove the disposed sand from the municipal landfill and to install wells to monitor the landfills’ groundwater.
Through the resolution, NIBCO encountered an added benefit: an arrangement with a copper smelting facility. Instead of discarding the waste sand in a landfill, NIBCO began to send its waste sand to the copper facility where it was used as a fluxing agent in the copper manufacturing process. Another positive outcome to the resolution involved the Sloan Valve Company as it was engaged in a similar dispute with EPA. After NIBCO’s settlement, Sloan agreed to settle and pay a penalty. (Kandell, 1999, 1)
In an analysis of the effectiveness of the dispute resolution process in the NIBCO and EPA case, a positive outcome proved the effectiveness. Each party directly participated in the outline of the arbitration process through Mr. Seitzman and agreed on the definition of a resolution. With this type of involvement, each party had an increase of satisfaction to the outcome and increase compliance. Another beneficial factor was the speed of the proceedings as well as the savings in court costs. Due to an integrated approach through cooperation rather than competition, there was less escalation between parties as an agreement was reached.
Kandell, E. (1999, February 24). NIBCO Administrative Hearing Avoided Using Mediation. Retrieved November 4, 2007, from http://adr.gov/ces/cessuccess2.pdf
NIBCO, Inc. (2007). About NIBCO. Retrieved November 5, 2007, from http://www.nibco.com/cms.do;jsessionid=VY6CIXgZPs6JruPqGEm5xg**.app1?id=4
Spangler, B. (2003, June). Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Retrieved November 5, 2007, from http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/adr/