Last time, we began speaking about the use of mediation in environmental disputes. As we noted in connection with the currently dispute between Florida and Georgia, going to court isn’t always the best way to resolve environmental disputes, particularly when there are a lot of factors at play and when more flexibility is needed to come up with long-term solutions.
Mediation is one form of alternative dispute resolution which can be used to solve environmental disputes. In addition to the mediation approaches we briefly mentioned last time, there are some styles of mediation that seek simply to facilitate a meaningfully exchange in which parties are able to hear each out and come up with a mutually acceptable agreement.
Mediation agreements are not as limited as court decisions in the potential outcome. A good solution in mediation is one in which both parties feel their interests have been addressed and that they can both live with. In environmental disputes, this flexibility can be very helpful in working out solutions
Mediation isn’t always effective, to be sure. Its success depends on a variety of factors, including the issue(s) in dispute, who is representing the parties in mediation, the skills of the mediator, and the parties’ willingness to work together. Parties who go into the mediation process without a real commitment to working out a solution are less likely to be able to do so.
In the mediation process, it can be helpful to work with an experienced attorney to ensure one is heard in the process and that one has sound advice regarding negotiation of solutions. An attorney can also be an important resource for evaluating the strength of the other party’s claims, and for ensuring that the rules of confidentiality are properly applied, both within the mediation process and in subsequent court actions, should the mediation fail.