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West Virginia Law Review

Document Type

Article

Abstract

The cornerstone of the graduated enforcement scheme enacted to ensure safety in America's mines, significant and substantial has long been one of the Mine Safety and Health Administration's principal enforcement tools. In the 1969 Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act, Congress mandated that when a federal mine inspector issues a citation for a violation of a mandatory health or safety standard, the inspector must indicate whether the violation is one that "could significantly and substantially contribute to the cause and effect of a mine safety or health hazard." While Congress provided minimal guidance as to what it intended and what types of violations it was referring to with the quoted language, "significant and substantial" was ultimately implemented as a substantive designation used to denote conditions and practices that were more serious in nature than a mere violation. Repeated issuance of significant and substantial violations can lead to increasingly severe sanctions and penalties for a mine operator. The analytical framework used to determine whether a given violation is significant and substantial, although being refined a number of times, has remained largely constant over the last forty years. However, the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission ("Commission") recently issued a series of decisions which purport to apply the traditional framework but at the same time appear to have broadened the scope of what violations might be considered significant and substantial. This Article serves the dual purpose of(1) filling a longstanding void in legal scholarship on this subject by Maxwell K. Multer is an attorney with Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP's Natural Resources practice group. He helps clients in the energy industry manage the enforcement relationships with their various regulating agencies, including the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Mr. Multer also gained experience with issues touching the commodity, natural gas and electricity markets during his time in the Office of Enforcement at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. He earned his B.S. in Economics from North Carolina State University, with high honors, and his J.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with honors. He is a frequent writer and presenter on topics in mine safety litigation.

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