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United Steelworkers v. Mine Safety and Health Administration

ELR Citation: 49 ELR 20101
Nos. 18-1116, (D.C. Cir., 06/11/2019)

The D.C. Circuit vacated the Mine Safety and Health Administration's (MSHA's) 2018 amendment to a 2017 safety standard that required mine operators to examine areas before miners began work and record any conditions that could adversely affect workers' safety and health. Union groups argued the amendment violated the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act by failing to adequately explain how its examination requirement complied with the Act's no-less-protection standard. The court agreed, finding that MSHA's explanation relied on a non-existent notification-before-exposure duty and was thus arbitrary and capricious. The groups also argued that MSHA failed to provide a reasoned explanation for how the amendment's recordkeeping requirement satisfied the no-less-protection standard. The court again found that MSHA's reasoning—that the amendment would yield better safety protection by incentivizing mine operators to promptly correct adverse conditions—was specious at best, and that it had failed to justify how the supposed benefits of the amendment equaled or exceeded those yielded by the 2017 standard. The court therefore vacated the amendment and ordered the 2017 standard to be reinstated.