Shamokin Filler loses appeal on MSHA jurisdiction
PHILADELPHIA - A panel of circuit court judges Friday denied an appeal by the Shamokin Filler Co. that sought to overturn the state mining commission's ruling that the plant's oversight is within the jurisdiction of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.
The court upheld the earlier findings of the mining commission and an administrative law judge, all agreeing that Shamokin Filler's operations - storing, drying, screening, bagging coal - dictate that MSHA be the inspecting agency.
An attorney for Shamokin Filler 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 firm sought to have its inspections performed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The judges note 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 have 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 Shamokin Filler on the grounds that MSHA lacked jurisdiction.
Other coal facilities fall under OSHA jurisdiction, and Shamokin Filler 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's intent to allow Shamokin (Filler) to escape Mine Act jurisdiction based on a formality," according to the ruling.