Appeals court rejects complaints of six coal companies against MSHA

A three-judge panel at the U.S. Court for Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on July 5 rejected all arguments by several coal mining companies that the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration had issued unduly burdensome safety standards.

The coal mine operators—Rosebud Mining, Parkwood Resources, Canyon Fuel, Mountain Coal, Bowie Resources and Peabody Sage Creek Mining—sought review of two orders of the U.S, Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) modifying the application of mandatory mine safety standards to their respective mines. The petitioners contended that the orders contain three conditions unnecessary to ensure adequate mine safety, thus making them arbitrary and capricious. “For the reasons set forth below, we deny the petitions for review,” said the July 5 appeals court decision.

These six petitions for review involve MSHA’s “permissibility” requirements, which, in general, mandate that certain equipment located in certain mine areas be approved by MSHA (i.e., that they be permissible). The focus of the permissibility requirements is to assure that electrically operated equipment will not cause a mine explosion or mine fire. MSHA does not define “non-permissible” but its definition of “permissible” substantially illuminates the former, the court noted.

For the court’s review, the permissibility scheme breaks down into three categories: non-permissible equipment to which the non-use in certain mine areas restriction applies; non-permissible equipment with a MSHA modification which removes the non-use restriction; and equipment (like mechanical surveying equipment) for which no modification order is needed to authorize its use in certain mine areas. The petitioners sought to use non-permissible equipment and petitioned for modification of certain MSHA safety standards. 

The three-judge panel generally deferred to all of MSHA’s arguments in the matter.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.