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Delaware Dep't of Natural Resources & Envtl. Control v. Corps of Eng'rs

Citation: 40 ELR 20059
No. No. 09-821, (D. Del., 01/29/2010)

A district court granted in part and denied in part the motion of the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to dismiss a mine operator’s action relating to the MSHA’s use of a citation quota, which allegedly caused mine inspectors to issue baseless citations to the operator. As a preliminary matter, the court held that the claims were ripe for adjudication: a final disposition of the citations was not necessary, and the quota had enough legal consequence to be a final agency action. District court review was proper because the operator’s claims were outside administrative jurisdiction and wholly collateral to the review provisions of the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act (Mine Act). Additionally, a finding that the district court lacked jurisdiction would preclude any meaningful adjudication of the operator’s claims. At the same time, the Mine Act does not vest jurisdiction in the courts of appeals over the quota since the quota is not a mandatory health or safety standard promulgated under Mine Act §101. As to the merits, the operator failed to state a claim because (1) increased litigation costs do not constitute a deprivation of a property right so as to establish a due process claim; (2) there is no patent inconsistency with a large quota and the Mine Act; and (3) the quota is a rule of agency organization, procedure or practice and a personnel matter and, as such, is exempt from the notice and comment procedure required for mandatory health and safety standards.