About FERC Office of Administrative Law Judges and Dispute Resolution (OALJDR)
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 two major functions:
- To provide services such as mediation and facilitation in disputes involving entities subject to the Commission's jurisdiction including environmental disputes. 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 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.
DRS Casework | DRS Outreach
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.
- Consultation: The DRS actively promotes the values of ADR and the DRS program. We have offered our 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.
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.
- 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.