NMA Requests Court Review, Agency Stay of Flawed Coal Dust Rule

Washington, D.C. – The National Mining Association (NMA) has asked a federal appeals court to review the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) regulation for the control of coal dust in underground coal mines because the rule embodies fundamental legal and technical infirmities in its scope, foundation and framework. “The paramount issue here – the protection of our workforce – demands focused and effective solutions that deliver real protections to those who need them. These solutions are absent in this ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach that fails to reflect the constructive suggestions from representatives of industry and labor,” NMA President and CEO Hal Quinn said today. “We are left with no choice but to seek judicial intervention to resolve these important concerns,” Quinn added.

NMA also has requested MSHA postpone the effective date of the final rule to address the technical flaws and provisions that do not align with other requirements of the rule. In a May 2 letter to Assistant Secretary of Labor Joseph Main, NMA Senior Vice President Bruce Watzman described conflicting provisions that make compliance impractical if not impossible within the time frames provided.

For example, Watzman pointed to the requirement, beginning Aug. 1 of this year, that operators take “immediate corrective actions” based on sampling technologies that do not provide them with real-time measurements. Sampling data on which “immediate actions” must be based will only be available days or weeks later, therefore having no relevance to actual dust levels at the time data is received. The technology needed to comply with this provision will not be available until at least 18 months later.

A requirement for operators to collect full shift dust samples by Aug. 1 of this year stipulates an entirely new sampling method “that has not been sufficiently studied” and cannot be accomplished by the deadline, according to Watzman. Without additional time to complete a thorough analysis and planning on how to integrate this new protocol into mine schedules, “mine operators can only guess” at when they need to conduct sampling.

“Various pieces of the rule simply do not fit together,” said Watzman. MSHA also ignored NMA’s numerous, straight-forward recommendations for practical measures that have been proven to reduce workplace exposure to respirable dust.

For a copy of NMA’s May 2 letter to MSHA, click here.

For a copy of NMA’s May 1 petition for review, click here.