New Era of Enforcement—A Federal Anti-Shredding Statute May Provide a New Avenue for MSHA Criminal Enforcement - Coal Age Magazine

    24 May 2010

    The tragic events at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia this April were followed by the inevitable scramble to determine not only what went wrong at the mine, but how the regulatory system responsible for the safety and health of America’s miners may have failed. Days following the accident, President Obama instructed the Department of Labor and MSHA “to strengthen enforcement of existing laws and close loopholes” in mine safety and health.

    The public’s misunderstanding of the regulatory enforcement environment under which mines operate is illustrated by President Obama’s concern that mines were able to “fil[e] endless appeals instead of paying fines and fixing safety problems.” Anyone familiar with MSHA knows that an operator’s exercise of its statutory due process right to challenge a citation and its associated penalty does not absolve the mine of remedying the alleged violation before the merits of the citation are adjudicated. However, with such intense scrutiny focused on its actions, MSHA will likely attempt to take very strong enforcement positions in the coming year.