Scenario 14

Environmental Dispute Resolution

You work for the Chemical Manufacturer's Association of America. This is a trade association dedicated to educating the public about the important contributions that your member companies make to the economy and to the quality of everyday life. CMA has decided to expand its environmental staff to demonstrate the CMA is concerned about sustainability and environmental quality. You took them at their word when you decided to join the staff several years ago.

Computer chip manufacturing plants are facing increased local opposition to expansion. Even though you are convinced that these plants do what is necessary to protect abutters from the dangers associated with water pollution or air pollution caused by leaks from the plant, you have been unable to generate anything that is taken seriously by your critics and opponents. It is true that there could be a fire at a plant and that the impacts of such an accident could be serious. But the same is true of almost any manufacturing facility. CMA members have adopted a Good Neighbor Pledge indicating their promise to minimize the risks of pollution and to accept full responsibility for any adverse impacts their facilities might cause.

The latest battle in the Southwest is between America's largest chip-making company and a group of environmentalists who have decided to take a stand against the proposed expansion of a plant that has been in place for more than two decades. The opponents claim to have evidence that shows an abnormally high rate of certain cancers in the area around the plant. While they might be correct, there is nothing to tie the incidence of cancer to what's going on at the plant.

The leaders of CMA have asked you to formulate a plan for meeting with and working out differences with the critics of this site. You know that all eyes nationally will be on what happens. So, you need to think in terms of a pilot process that could be repeated at many other sites. How do you propose to tackle this conflict in a way that might lead to workable agreement to proceed with expansion of the plant? What principles would you use to guide the design of a dispute resolution process given that the conflict involves groups with radically different values and perhaps a range of hidden agendas?


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