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S. 2160 (115th): Protect Collaboration for Healthier Forests Act


The text of the bill below is as of Nov 16, 2017 (Introduced).


II

115th CONGRESS

1st Session

S. 2160

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

November 16, 2017

(for himself, Mr. Risch, and Mr. Crapo) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

A BILL

To establish a pilot program under which the Chief of the Forest Service may use alternative dispute resolution in lieu of judicial review for certain projects.

1.

Short title

This Act may be cited as the Protect Collaboration for Healthier Forests Act.

2.

Alternative dispute resolution pilot program

(a)

Definitions

In this Act:

(1)

Participant

The term participant means an individual or entity that files an objection or scoping comments on a draft environmental document with respect to a project that is subject to an objection at the project level under part 218 of title 36, Code of Federal Regulations (or successor regulations).

(2)

Pilot program

The term pilot program means the pilot program established under subsection (b).

(3)

Project

The term project means a project described in subsection (c).

(4)

Secretary

The term Secretary means the Secretary of Agriculture, acting through the Chief of the Forest Service.

(b)

Arbitration pilot program

Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall establish within Region 1 of the Forest Service an arbitration pilot program as an alternative dispute resolution process in lieu of judicial review for projects described in subsection (c).

(c)

Description of projects

(1)

In general

The Secretary, at the sole discretion of the Secretary, may designate for arbitration projects that—

(A)
(i)

are developed through a collaborative process (within the meaning of section 603(b)(1)(C) of the Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003 (16 U.S.C. 6591b(b)(1)(C)));

(ii)

are carried out under the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program established under section 4003 of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (16 U.S.C. 7303); or

(iii)

are identified in a community wildfire protection plan (as defined in section 101 of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 (16 U.S.C. 6511));

(B)

have as a purpose—

(i)

hazardous fuels reduction; or

(ii)

mitigation of insect or disease infestation; and

(C)

are located, in whole or in part, in a wildland-urban interface (as defined in section 101 of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 (16 U.S.C. 6511)).

(2)

Inclusion

In designating projects for arbitration, the Secretary may include projects that receive categorical exclusions for purposes of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.).

(d)

Limitation on number of projects

The Secretary may not designate for arbitration under the pilot program more than 2 projects per calendar year.

(e)

Arbitrators

(1)

Appointment

The Secretary shall develop and publish a list of not fewer than 15 individuals eligible to serve as arbitrators for the pilot program.

(2)

Qualifications

To be eligible to serve as an arbitrator under this subsection, an individual shall be—

(A)

certified by—

(i)

the American Arbitration Association; or

(ii)

a State arbitration program; or

(B)

a fully retired Federal or State judge.

(f)

Initiation of arbitration

(1)

In general

Not later than 7 days after the date on which the Secretary issues the final decision with respect to a project, the Secretary shall—

(A)

notify each applicable participant and the Clerk of the United States District Court for the district in which the project is located that the project has been designated for arbitration in accordance with this Act; and

(B)

include in the decision document a statement that the project has been designated for arbitration.

(2)

Initiation

(A)

In general

A participant may initiate arbitration regarding a project that has been designated for arbitration under this Act in accordance with—

(i)

sections 571 through 584 of title 5, United States Code; and

(ii)

this paragraph.

(B)

Requirements

A request to initiate arbitration under subparagraph (A) shall—

(i)

be filed not later than the date that is 30 days after the date of the notification by the Secretary under paragraph (1); and

(ii)

include an alternative proposal for the applicable project that describes each modification sought by the participant with respect to the project.

(C)

No judicial review

A project for which arbitration is initiated under subparagraph (A) shall not be subject to judicial review.

(3)

Compelled arbitration

(A)

Motion to compel arbitration

(i)

In general

If a participant seeks judicial review of a final decision with respect to a project, the Secretary may file in the applicable court a motion to compel arbitration in accordance with this Act.

(ii)

Fees and costs

For any motion described in clause (i) for which the Secretary is the prevailing party, the applicable court shall award to the Secretary—

(I)

court costs; and

(II)

attorney's fees.

(B)

Arbitration compelled by court

If a participant seeks judicial review of a project, the applicable court shall compel arbitration in accordance with this Act.

(g)

Selection of arbitrator

For each arbitration commenced under this Act—

(1)

the Secretary shall propose 3 arbitrators from the list published under subsection (e)(1); and

(2)

the applicable participant shall select 1 arbitrator from the list of arbitrators proposed under paragraph (1).

(h)

Responsibilities of arbitrator

(1)

In general

An arbitrator selected under subsection (e)—

(A)

shall address all claims of each party seeking arbitration with respect to a project under this Act; but

(B)

may consolidate into a single arbitration all requests to initiate arbitration by all participants with respect to a project.

(2)

Selection of proposals

An arbitrator shall make a decision with respect to each applicable request for initiation of arbitration under this Act by—

(A)

selecting the project, as approved by the Secretary;

(B)

selecting an alternative proposal submitted by the applicable participant; or

(C)

rejecting both projects described in subparagraphs (A) and (B).

(3)

Limitations

(A)

Administrative record

The evidence before an arbitrator under this subsection shall be limited solely to the administrative record for the project.

(B)

No modifications to proposals

An arbitrator may not modify any proposal contained in a request for initiation of arbitration of a participant under this Act.

(i)

Intervention

A party may intervene in an arbitration under this Act if, with respect to the project to which the arbitration relates, the party—

(1)

meets the requirements of Rule 24(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (or a successor rule); or

(2)

participated in the applicable collaborative process referred to in clause (i) or (ii) of subsection (c)(1)(A).

(j)

Scope of review

In carrying out arbitration for a project, the arbitrator shall set aside the agency action, findings, and conclusions found to be arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law, within the meaning of section 706(2)(A) of title 5, United States Code.

(k)

Deadline for completion of arbitration

Not later than 90 days after the date on which a request to initiate arbitration is filed under subsection (f)(2), the arbitrator shall make a decision with respect to the request to initiate arbitration.

(l)

Effect of arbitration decision

A decision of an arbitrator under this Act—

(1)

shall not be considered to be a major Federal action;

(2)

shall be binding; and

(3)

shall not be subject to judicial review, except as provided in section 10(a) of title 9, United States Code.

(m)

Administrative costs

(1)

In general

The Secretary shall—

(A)

be solely responsible for the professional fees of arbitrators participating in the pilot program; and

(B)

use funds made available to the Secretary and not otherwise obligated to carry out subparagraph (A).

(2)

Attorney's fees

No arbitrator may award attorney’s fees in any arbitration brought under this Act.

(n)

Reports

(1)

In general

Not later than 1 year after the date on which the pilot program is established, and annually thereafter, the Secretary shall submit to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry and the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the Senate and the Committee on Natural Resources of the House of Representatives, and publish on the website of Region 1 of the Forest Service, a report of not longer than 10 pages describing the implementation of the pilot program for the applicable year, including—

(A)

the reasons for selecting certain projects for arbitration;

(B)

an evaluation of the arbitration process, including any recommendations for improvements to the process;

(C)

a description of the outcome of each arbitration; and

(D)

a summary of the impacts of each outcome described in subparagraph (C) on the timeline for implementation and completion of the applicable project.

(2)

GAO reviews and reports

(A)

Initial review

Not later than 2 years after the date on which the pilot program is established, the Comptroller General of the United States shall review the implementation by the Secretary of the pilot program.

(B)

Review on termination

On termination of the pilot program under subsection (o), the Comptroller General of the United States shall review the implementation by the Secretary of the pilot program.

(C)

Report

On completion of the review described in subparagraph (A) or (B), the Comptroller General of the United States shall submit to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry and the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the Senate and the Committee on Natural Resources of the House of Representatives a report describing the results of the applicable review.

(o)

Termination

The pilot program shall terminate on the date that is 5 years after the date.

(p)

Effect

Nothing in this Act affects the responsibility of the Secretary to comply with—

(1)

the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.); or

(2)

the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.).