Coal Tattoo

Black lung update: Key MSHA rule delayed again

While most Americans were gearing up to enjoy their July 4 holiday, the Obama administration was on Wednesday finally posting the spring edition of its semi-annual regulatory agenda. It’s available here and has some interesting changes regarding the Department of Labor‘s Mine Safety and Health Administration.

First, and perhaps most importantly, MSHA appears to be continuing its delays in finalizing a new rule aimed at helping to eliminate deadly black lung disease. As we’ve discussed before, MSHA had most recently listed a target date for a final rule as June 2013. Of course, June has come and gone — and now MSHA is listing a target date for a final rule as September 2013. As of this morning, the final rule is not listed as having been received by the White House Office of Management and Budget for a review that could take months.

The latest MSHA agenda also indicates the agency is again pushing back the date to finalize a new rule to require “proximity detection devices” on continuous mining machines in the nation’s underground coal mines. Previously, agency officials listed a target date of May 2013 to finalize that rule. Their latest regulatory agenda lists a new target date of August 2013. MSHA  also moved back the date to issue a proposed rule to require proximity detection systems on other mobile underground equipment — from July 2013 to November 2013 — for a proposed rule has been sitting at the White House OMB since September 2011.

The new MSHA regulatory agenda also lists a new item called “Regulatory Actions in Responseto Recommendations Resulting From Investigation of the Upper Big Branch Explosion.” It’s an information request that is described this way:

In response to recommendations resulting from MSHA’s investigation of the Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine explosion and MSHA’s internal review of its actions at UBB, MSHA is initiating a new regulatory action that would address issues related to the explosion. The request for information will request data, comments, and information on issues related to rock dusting, ventilation, mine examinations, certified persons, and MSHA-approved instructors. 

MSHA doesn’t plan to publish the information request until October 2013.