Formal Contestant Help Page
Request for Expedited Hearing
Even though "Formal Contestment" puts a hold on the contested citation, the "abatement period" is still running! It has to do with the language used in the ACT (Sec 105(b)(1)(a)) and requires an Expedited Hearing to give you either a "reasonable abatement period or the abatement period put "on hold" until after your Contestment Hearing.
Other Situations Calling for Expedited Action
Imminent danger orders (see also Commission Rule 22 - specific to ID)
Citation/order with high abatement costs where MSHA is demanding prompt abatement
Cases with potential for criminal referrals or Section 110C proceedings
Cases involving contractors or those where witnesses may become unavailable (age, retirement) if wait for MSHA to assess penalties (special assessments can take 2 years or more!)
(See the Sample Letter 1 above.)
Legally, response must be made to your request within 72 hours. This response is usually from MSHA's Solicitors' Office.
Phony Order & Citation Defense
MSHA inspectors have threatened Operators with "orders" if they did not immediately abate phony citations. An order must be obeyed and there appears to be no time for any sort of a solution with the inspector, his field office, or the District Office! Remember " informal conference" will be heard by MSHA, by field and district offices only for "high negligence or flagrant violations" and only after assessments have been received. The only reasonable avenue open is "Formal Contestment"! If you receive a citation or if threatened with a citation, when you receive it, immediately fax a request for Formal Contestment and Expedited Hearing on both the citation and the unreasonable abatement period to MSHA Solicitors Office, Arlington, VA. Also mail the letter (USPS certified mail, return receipt requested) to the FMSHRC and a copy to the Solicitors office).
The MSHA Solicitors office numbers are: phone:202-693-9333, fax:202-693-9361.
Remember to make a note of the date and time the fax was sent.
Follow the steps under "Formal Contestment" procedure: addresses, procedures and sample Letter.
"Order of Stay"
This is the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission's response to the increasing number of Formal Contestments. You do not have to agree to waiting for the assessment. That is the 2nd opportunity to Formally Contest.
There is the hope that this will confuse companies and cause them to wait for the Assessment before pursuing in court as this would lessen their case load!
If MSHA inspectors would issue proper and legitimate citations then Formal Contestment by Producers would not be necessary.
See the "Order of Stay Letter" and follow the instructions on the "Sample Response to the Order of Stay".
Order of Stay Letter from Chief Admin. Law Judge
Sample Response to "Order of Stay"
TO: Chief Administrative Law Judge
FM: ABC Quarries, Inc.
Subject: Status Report on Contestment of Citation # 12345678
We intend to formally contest this citation at this time.
D. Good Miner
This letter must be sent within 30 days of receipt of "Order to Stay", re-dated, and sent every 30 calendar days from receipt of the "Order of Stay" Letter until your Court Date.
For problems with MSHA inspectors or MSHA officials call the Office of Inspector General: