Coal Tattoo

House sets hearing next week on MSHA backlog

It’s been a while, but we’ve written before on Coal Tattoo about the huge backlog of mine safety enforcement appeals filed by the industry in the wake of tougher penalties set up after the disasters of 2006.

Well, not the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor, under the leadership of Chairman George Miller, D-Calif., has scheduled a hearing for next Tuesday on this issue. According to the committee announcement:

On Tuesday, February 23, [at 10 a.m.] the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee will hold a hearing to assess whether a backlog of mine safety enforcement actions are adversely impacting the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s ability to protect miners’ safety and prevent future tragedies, and to evaluate options to remedy the problem.

There is a rapidly growing number of mine safety enforcement cases currently pending before the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (FMSHRC), a small independent agency which provides administrative trial and appellate review of contested citations, penalties, and worker retaliation cases. As the result of stepped-up enforcement and tougher penalties after a spate of mine tragedies in 2005 and 2006, mine owners tripled the number of violations they appeal and are now litigating 67 percent of all penalties. The backlog of cases FMSHRC must review has jumped from 2,100 in 2006 to approximately 16,000 today.