Review commission issues new rule to streamline settlements

The Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission on Tuesday issued a final rule meant to streamline the settlement process for civil penalties assessed under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act.

Under the final rule, parties submitting a motion approving a penalty settlement must submit a proposed order approving the settlement. The new rule also requires the motion and proposed order to be filed electronically.

The rule is part of an effort to reduce a growing backlog of contested penalties and citations. Since the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act was passed in 2006, administrative law judges have seen their average caseload increase by more than 400 percent, and the time for a typical case to be resolved grew from less than one year to about 18 months.

Recently, Congress provided FMSHRC with supplemental funding to help with the commission's case backlog.

Comments on the new rule are being accepted until Dec. 15, and the rule is scheduled to go into effect Dec. 30. The final rule takes the place of an interim rule published in the April 27 Federal Register.

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