Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) approaches have been used at the CPUC for many years. On August 30, 2005, the Commission committed itself to a new and invigorated program to encourage the use of ADR in formal proceedings.
In approving Resolution ALJ-185, the Commission indicated, "We believe ADR offers great potential to the Commission, and all who practice before the Commission, for improving decision-making processes in formal proceedings and certain other disputes."
ADR commonly describes processes, such as facilitation, negotiation, mediation, and early neutral evaluation to help disputants resolve a conflict without a formal decision by a court or agency. When successful, ADR may achieve results that a court or agency could not order, give the parties more ownership in the result, and reduce litigation and agency costs.
The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Division administers the ADR program and trained, experienced ALJs serve as neutrals in the program.
ADR is not appropriate for all CPUC proceedings. Disputes over purely legal issues do not lend themselves to ADR. Also, ADR may not help in many rulemaking proceedings where the Commission must make a policy decision. Even in these cases, ALJs may facilitate workshops and conferences to identify and evaluate policy options.
The Commission periodically reviews the progress of its ADR program. Its most recent report is The Alternative Dispute Resolution Program at the California Public Utilities Commission: An Update through Calendar Year 2009.