Shamokin Carbons to file appeal over MHSA inspection issue
COAL TOWNSHIP - A co-owner of the Shamokin Carbons plant says the company will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court a lower court's ruling that its oversight falls within the jurisdiction of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.
A circuit court last week upheld earlier findings of the mining commission and an administrative law judge, agreeing that the operations of the formerly named Shamokin Filler - storing, drying, screening, bagging coal - dictate that MSHA be the inspecting agency.
Bill Rosini said Monday that his firm uses less anthracite coal than steel mills and power plants, and that it's mistakenly classified as a coal mine. Its operations and safety concerns, including the use of fork lifts and palletized materials, would be more appropriate for oversight by Occupational Safety and Health Administration, he said.
Its direct competitors are inspected by OSHA, he said, and Shamokin Carbons should be, too.
"We intend to go to the Supreme Court with it. We don't expect to win but it's the principle," Rosini said.
An attorney for the Rosinis argued that the plant does not engage in coal preparation, and that it makes all of its product
completely from purchased coal that has already been processed. The circuit judges noted that MSHA's requirements are more strict than OSHA's, specifically regarding airborne coal dust standards and employee exposure.
Cousins Don and Bill Rosini took over operations of the plant from their parents in 2009 and renamed it Shamokin Carbons. MSHA had treated the plant as a mine and inspected it under the federal Mine Act between 1977 and when the current owners assumed operations. At issue were several violations documented between 2009 and 2011, including for respirable dust standards, which were contested and appealed by the Rosinis on the grounds that MSHA lacked jurisdiction.
Other coal facilities fall under OSHA jurisdiction, and Shamokin Filler, as it's referred to in court filings, argued that the administrative law judge should not have excluded evidence from these plants when making a previous ruling. The circuit judges disagreed, saying jurisdiction should only be determined on a case-by-case basis and that operations at Shamokin Filler need be the only focus in this case.
In their precedential ruling, the judges say that mining activities and related safety concerns from breathing in coal dust led to the establishment of remedies available under the Mine Act. "It would defy Congress' intent to allow Shamokin (Filler) to escape Mine Act jurisdiction based on a formality," according to the ruling.