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Penn State Environmental Law Review


The growth in the number of concentrated animal feeding operations ("CAFOs"), particularly those involved in swine production, has brought with it increased community concern and outright conflict in many communities across the United States.' Most commentators have focused upon anticipated outcomes to explain the contentiousness of CAFO-related disputes.2 Meanwhile, even though the social dynamics that contribute to the development and escalation of conflicts over CAFOs parallel those exhibited in other kinds of community conflicts, little research has systematically examined the social dynamics associated with CAFO conflicts. One exception to this deficiency is recent work conducted by a team of researchers that examined CAFO-related disputes in Pennsylvania in order to make recommendations for alternative models for the resolution of such disputes.4 The researchers found that Pennsylvania stakeholders' perceived loss of direct and indirect control in the decision-making processes governing CAFOs was at the root of these conflicts.5 This Article highlights stakeholders' concerns about the procedural fairness of the governmental decision-making surrounding CAFOs, including the negotiation, passage, and implementation of the Pennsylvania Nutrient Management Act ("Act 6"); decisions regarding CAFOs' requests for permits; and townships' adoption of CAFO-related ordinances. The Article argues that these perceptions of procedural unfairness are among the primary factors contributing to Pennsylvania stakeholders' perception of loss of control. Alternative mechanisms for the resolution of CAFO-related disputes, therefore, must respond quite explicitly to the need for procedural justice.

In Part I, based on interviews with stakeholders in Pennsylvania, this Article will describe the model of how conflicts over CAFOs arise and will provide an overview of the stakeholders' perceptions regarding uncertainty, risk, unfairness, threats to identity, and mistrust, and it will demonstrate the effect of these cognitive and affective responses upon perceptions of control. In Part II, the Article will explore the procedural justice implications of the central issues of fairness, identity maintenance, and trust, as well as stakeholders' preferences for more productive resolution of CAFO-related conflicts. Finally, in Part III, the Article will propose five community participation and dispute resolution processes that have the potential to increase the reality and perception of procedural justice for all members of the communities affected by decision-making regarding CAFOs. The analysis in this Article is intended to help policy makers, regulators, and the disputants themselves to anticipate the social dynamics of these conflicts and to make informed choices about how to address them constructively.

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Dickinson School of Law

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