The United Mine Workers of America is suing the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA, after the agency reduced its heightened oversight of a West Virginia coal mine with a poor safety record.
MSHA has the power to declare mines with a history of significant safety violations as having a “Pattern of Violations.” Known as “POV status,” the declaration is an enforcement tool that allows the agency to increase regulatory scrutiny at a mine with repeated safety issues.
Under the Obama administration, MSHA used that authority to place the Pocahontas Coal Company’s Affinity mine in southern West Virginia on POV status in October, 2013, after two miners were killed in separate incidents within a two-week span.
This year, under the Trump administration, agency officials decided to remove POV status for the Affinity mine in an agreement with the company that resolved litigation on the matter, despite a continued record of spotty safety performance at the mine.
The UMWA’s complaint claims that MSHA’s actions violate the Administrative Procedures Act and the Mine Act. UMWA spokesperson Phil Smith said MSHA should keep the pattern …