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Thunder Basin Coal Co. v. Reich

Supreme Court of the United States

October 5, 1993, Argued ; January 19, 1994, Decided

No. 92-896

Opinion

 [*202]  [***35]  [**774]    JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.

 In this case, we address the question whether the statutory-review scheme in the Federal Mine Safety and Health Amendments Act of 1977, 91 Stat. 1290, as amended, 30 U.S.C. § 801 et seq. (1988 ed. and Supp. IV) (Mine Act or Act),  [****7]  prevents a district court from exercising subject-matter jurisdiction over a pre-enforcement challenge to the Act. We hold that it does.

Congress adopted the Mine Act "to protect the health and safety of the Nation's coal or other miners." 30 U.S.C. § 801(g). The Act requires the Secretary of Labor or his representative to conduct periodic, unannounced health and  [*203]  safety inspections of the Nation's mines. 2 Section § 813(f) provides:

"[A] representative of the operator and a representative authorized by his miners shall be given an opportunity to accompany the Secretary or his authorized representative during the physical inspection of any coal or other mine . . . for the purpose of aiding such inspection and to participate in pre- or post-inspection conferences held at the mine."

Regulations [****8]  promulgated under this section define a miners' representative as "any person or organization which represents two or more miners at a coal or other mine for the purposes of the Act." 30 CFR § 40.1(b)(1) (1993).

In addition to exercising these "walk-around" inspection rights under § 813(f), persons designated as representatives of the miners may obtain certain health and safety information 3 [****9]  and promote health and  [***36]  safety enforcement. 4 Once the mine employees  [**775]  designate one or more persons as their representatives,  [*204]  the employer must post at the mine information regarding these designees. 30 CFR § 40.4.

The Secretary has broad authority to compel immediate compliance with Mine Act provisions through the use of mandatory civil penalties, discretionary daily civil penalties, and other sanctions. 5 Challenges to enforcement are reviewed by the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, 30 U.S.C. §§ 815 and 823, which is independent of the Department of Labor, and by the appropriate United States court of appeals,  [****10]  § 816.

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510 U.S. 200 *; 114 S. Ct. 771 **; 127 L. Ed. 2d 29 ***; 1994 U.S. LEXIS 1136 ****; 62 U.S.L.W. 4058; 127 Lab. Cas. (CCH) P10,969; 94 Cal. Daily Op. Service 373; 16 OSHC (BNA) 1553; 1994 OSHD (CCH) P30,312; 94 Daily Journal DAR 619; 7 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 695

THUNDER BASIN COAL COMPANY, PETITIONER v. ROBERT B. REICH, SECRETARY OF LABOR, ET AL.

Prior History:  [****1]  ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT.

Disposition: 969 F.2d 970, affirmed.

CORE TERMS

district court, miners', Mine Act, Coal, judicial review, compliance, mine operator, designation, court of appeals, civil penalty, pre-enforcement, inspection, challenges, health and safety, mine safety, violations, legislative history, proceedings, cases, preclusion, provisions, regulation, deprivation, complying, irreparable harm, nonemployee, employees, mandatory, rights, abate

Administrative Law, Judicial Review, Reviewability, Preclusion, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Agency Adjudication, Review of Initial Decisions, General Overview, Factual Determinations, Civil Procedure, Jurisdiction, Jurisdictional Sources, Statutory Sources, Jurisdiction & Venue, Standards of Review, Deference to Agency Statutory Interpretation, Energy & Utilities Law, Mining Industry, Federal Mine Safety & Health Act, Separation of Powers, Compliance Enforcement, Legislative Policies & Purposes