The recent amendments to Oregon’s Environmental Cleanup Assistance Act (OECAA) included a potentially useful tool in the policyholder toolbox – one that could benefit all sides and the environment as well. The amendments provided that an insured could demand that an insurer participate in a mediation over a broad range of environmental coverage disputes, and if the insurer refuses, that is a per se bad faith claims handling practice subjecting the carrier to increased damages. The Oregon Department of Justice was given the responsibility for creating an environmental coverage mediation program including hiring a mediation service provider (MSP) to administer the program and writing regulations governing issues like qualifications and rates. DOJ convened a public meeting of stakeholders this past Monday, December 2, in Salem, which was attended by insurers, policyholder advocates, and many representatives of the mediation community. DOJ has also set up a website for the program which will track its progress. There are a number of issues under discussion. Let me know if you have thoughts that you’d like conveyed through the Advisory Committee that is being set up, and stay tuned.