U.S. District Judge Irene C. Berger has dismissed a lawsuit that sought to force the Obama administration to conduct its investigation of the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster through an open, public hearing.
I’ve posted a copy of Judge Berger’s decision here. As Coal Tattoo readers certainly know, the United Mine Workers union and two families of Upper Big Branch victims filed this suit to try to bring some measure of transparency to the ongoing MSHA probe.
The judge did not address the merits of the case, or any of the arguments about whether MSHA should be investigating itself or that an open process would harm the ongoing criminal investigation of safety practices at the Massey Energy Mine.
Instead, Judge Berger sided with the argument made by lawyers for MSHA chief Joe Main that the U.S. District Court did not have jurisdiction to decide the matter, calling that “the foremost issue in this case.”
Basically, Judge Berger ruled that the Administrative Procedure Act — invoked by the UMWA and the miners’ families — does not provide for judicial review of MSHA’s procedures for conducting accident investigations.