Bloomberg Environment Quotes Willa Perlmutter on Effect of Mine Safety Panel Decision Limiting Judge’s Settlement Discretion

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Mining attorney Willa Perlmutter was quoted in Bloomberg Environment’s Occupational Safety & Health Reporter℠ in an article titled “Mine Safety Panel Limits Judge’s Settlement Discretion,” published October 3, 2019. (Subscription required.) The article discusses the ramifications of a decision by the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission that an administrative law judge overstepped his authority in requesting further materials to review before he would approve a settlement between the Mine Safety and Health Administration and a coal mine operator.

MSHA proposed penalties totaling almost $73,000 to settle three citations it issued to Solar Sources Mining, which runs a surface mine where a miner was severely injured in July 2016. As a result of settlement negotiations, Solar Sources agreed to pay less than $14,000 for all three citations, but the judge said he couldn’t approve the settlement without access to additional documentation.

The commission disagreed and overturned the judge’s rejection of the settlement, a decision that Perlmutter said could affect a vast majority of the mine safety cases that are settled. “This is a good sign in terms of the prospects of future settlements,” Perlmutter said. The decision places clear limitations on administrative law judges’ ability to review the materials and representations made by parties when making a determination to approve a settlement, she said.

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