The Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission is back in business as it will soon have a quorum again to decide cases. The Commission plays an important role in mine safety and health law. The Commission establishes precedential case law when it decides appeals of administrative law judge decisions in Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) cases, including citation contests and discrimination cases. Commission decisions can have a significant impact on MSHA’s interpretations of its regulations and the scope of its enforcement authority.
On March 14, 2019, the U.S. Senate confirmed President Trump’s nominations of William L. Althen, Marco M. Rajkovich, Jr., and Arthur R. Traynor III to serve on the Commission. They will serve staggered terms. Traynor’s term will expire on August 30, 2022, and Althen’s and Rajkovich’s terms will expire two years later, on August 30, 2024. Commissioner Mary Lu Jordan’s and Commissioner Michael G. Young’s terms expire on August 30, 2020.
For the first time in a long while, there will be a majority of former management-side mine industry attorneys on the Commission. Althen, Rajkovich, and current Acting Chief Commissioner Young formerly were in private practice or held other positions related to the management side of the mining industry. Traynor and Commissioner Jordan are former attorneys for the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). Of course, having such a majority does not guarantee that the Commission decisions will be favorable to mine operator positions on the law.