Webinar on Joint Fact Finding for Energy Resources Issues

Nov 8, 2013

RESOLVE’s webinar on Joint Fact Finding (JFF) illustrated, through case examples and a hypothetical scenario, the usefulness of this consensus-building process for real-world problem-solving in conflicted arenas of energy development, like the relatively new momentum in hydraulic fracturing for natural gas extraction. Sixteen participants – representing industry, government, NGOs, and academia – learned about RESOLVE’s work from Stephen Courtney, Director of Collaborative Science; Paul De Morgan, Senior Mediator; and Dana Goodson, Senior Facilitator. The webinar was managed very efficiently by Adobe Connect, with its visual and auditory interactive format.

As Dr. Courtney pointed out, science is often disputed or monopolized in complex, multi-party initiatives, creating stalemates. In the United States, such bottlenecks can result in regulatory agencies or the courts handing down decisions for action, perhaps after costly lobbying efforts and litigation. These top-down recommendations do not necessarily have buy-in from all participants and thus may be doomed to problematic implementation or even outright failure. JFF can make a huge difference in such cases, bringing divergent parties to consensus around the scientific or technical issues at stake. One example illustrated how a stalled project involving three government agencies moved from a ten-year standoff to resolution in seven months.

A very important aspect of the JFF process includes reaching out to all key stakeholders, large and small, and bringing them together for collaborative problem-solving on scientific or technical issues. This task force then defines the areas of disagreement amenable to JFF, determines how to find answers, jointly identifies experts who can conduct independent research if needed, and evaluates results in order to arrive at a roadmap for decision-making. RESOLVE, with their thirty-year history of conflict mediation and resolution, assures an unbiased approach to the team effort that is clear, orderly and respectful, and has buy-in from all participants. They also maintain a record of the proceedings and decisions, and ensure dissemination of these findings to all critical decision-makers, constituencies, and the public.

As a landowner in northeast Pennsylvania, living amidst the Marcellus shale gas play, I was very encouraged to hear about RESOLVE’s JFF resource and would encourage landowners, energy development companies, NGOs, and government regulatory agencies to consider this option if and when disputes arise around scientific or technical issues. Hydraulic fracturing for natural gas is fraught with uncertainties regarding environmental and health impacts, as well as complex financial and legal considerations. Landowners, as compared to large energy corporations, are not equally empowered as decision-makers and often operate in the dark, with a lack of transparency, scientific and technical understanding, and most importantly, trust, creating confusion about how to proceed. Therefore, it seems that all parties would be better served with a clear and consensual road map, so that the issues raised by this important bridge to energy independence and sustainability can be understood by all stakeholders, working together in a spirit of cooperation.

You can listen in to this informative webinar at http://www.resolv.org/site-collaborativescience/services/joint-fact-finding/#webinar.

- Kathy Arcuri, RESOLVE Volunteer

Kathy Arcuri is a RESOLVE volunteer. She writes blog posts on RESOLVE’s work from her own perspective.

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RESOLVE is proud to partner with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and international companies and civil society to launch the Public-Private Alliance for Responsible Minerals Trade (PPA)

Nov 15, 2011

The PPA is being launched today as a joint effort of the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, civil society, companies, and industry organizations to support solutions that will address conflict minerals concerns while also helping to deliver benefits to those involved in responsible minerals trade in Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes Region of Central Africa.

RESOLVE President Stephen D’Esposito will serve as master of ceremonies for the launch announcement taking place today the United States Institute for Peace. Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs Robert Hormats, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero, and USAID Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for Africa Sharon Cromer will participate in a signing event to mark this effort. A panel of PPA participants will include Donald Yamamoto, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Department of State; Charles Chileya, Executive Director, International Conference on the Great Lakes Region; Richard Valin, Chief Procurement Officer and Corporate Vice President, Motorola; and Assheton Carter, Senior Vice President for Global Engagement and Strategy, Pact.

The complete press release can be found here.

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Sound Effects: Protecting Marine Mammals Using Acoustic Technology

Oct 17, 2011

In November 2009, RESOLVE facilitated a workshop in Boston, MA on the “Status and Applications of Acoustic Mitigation and Monitoring Systems for Marine Mammals.” The workshop was convened by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, and the 200 participants explored the capabilities and limitations of using passive and active acoustic systems to monitor and help mitigate adverse impacts of marine mammals in offshore environments.

Why was the issue of acoustic technology so important for an agency that focuses on offshore energy? The answer is not readily apparent unless one knows something about sound in water, and how it interacts with marine animals and ecosystems.

Have you ever dunked your head underneath the water at the swimming pool and just listened? Sound behaves so differently under water than in the air. It conducts better, and travels longer distances at a faster speed (particularly in seawater). While underwater sounds may be strange and unintelligible to our human ears an entire order of marine mammals, the cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises), have evolved to use underwater sounds through echolocation to learn information about their surroundings and communicate with others in their species.

Now imagine humans coming along and changing the marine acoustic environment through noise created near the water, on the water, and in the water. Anthropogenic sound can greatly affect these animals directly (through physical harm) and indirectly (by impacting their ability to echolocate and communicate). Some of the most extreme examples of this are beached whales after sonar tests.

Americans decided back in 1972, with the passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), that these animals should be protected. The MMPA prohibits the “take” of marine mammals. Specifically, we cannot “harass, hunt, capture, kill or collect, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, kill or collect” marine mammals. The Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) is given the task of protecting these animals while managing offshore energy development activities, which can create large-scale sound events. These events can result in the take of a whale or other marine mammal if within a certain distance of the sound. Examples of these events include survey companies using seismic blasts to locate offshore petroleum deposits and offshore wind turbine developers using pile driving to provide foundation support for the turbines.

BOEMRE has long required that those carrying out such offshore activities visually monitor for marine mammals and to stop work if an animal is spotted. But acoustic technology can complement and enhance visual monitoring and help ensure there are no marine mammals nearby at the time of a seismic blast or pile driving. To determine this technology’s capabilities and limitations, BOEMRE partnered with RESOLVE to hold the November 2009 workshop, which was attended by 200 regulators, researchers, operators, and conservationists from all over the globe to discuss how acoustic technology can monitor and help mitigate adverse impacts to marine mammals.

The official Technical Announcement and Workshop Proceedings are now available at the BOEMRE website.

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