Federal Appeals Court Upholds SCSRs Rule

The Mine Safety and Health Administration won a significant legal victory Jan. 11 in its continuing effort to implement regulatory changes that will carry out the MINER Act. The victory was a unanimous panel decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit against the National Mining Association, which challenged MSHA's final rule requiring underground coal mines to place one rescue oxygen device (SCSR) per miner in each emergency escapeway -- either there, or in a "hardened room" located between two emergency escapeways that is accessible to both. The final rule was published after the MINER Act became law, but it replaced an emergency temporary standard that was issued before the act took effect.

NMA asked the court to set aside the final rule because MSHA failed to give adequate notice of the hardened room option. MSHA never published that option in the Federal Register before issuing it; NMA alleged it was thus invalid.

The panel disagreed. Mine operators had an opportunity to comment during and after four public meetings MSHA held on the rulemaking, but NMA did not file comments. In this case, it claimed the MINER Act precluded MSHA from issuing the final rule. Again, the appeals court disagreed. The decision is National Mining Association v. MSHA and Secretary of Labor, et al., No. 07-1026.

Separately, NMA alerted its members in its Jan. 11 e-newsletter that the S-MINER Act of U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., is likely to receive a floor vote by the full House of Representatives tomorrow. Miller's bill is opposed by NMA, by the White House, and by a most of the U.S. Senate, the association reported.

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