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[April 30, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 82)]
[Unified Agenda]

Department of Labor (DOL)
Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)
Proposed Rule Stage


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1809. SEALING OF ABANDONED AREAS

Priority: Other Significant

Legal Authority: 30 USC 811

CFR Citation: 30 CFR 75.335

Legal Deadline: Final, Statutory, December 15, 2007.

Abstract: On June 15, 2006, the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act (MINER Act) of 2006, Public Law 109-236, became effective. Section 10 of the MINER Act requires the Secretary of Labor to finalize mandatory health and safety standards relating to the sealing of abandoned areas in underground coal mines, no later than 18 months after enactment. Such health and safety standards shall provide for an increase in the existing 20 pounds per square inch (psi) standard currently set forth in 30 CFR 75.335(a)(2).

Statement of Need: Section 10 of the MINER Act requires the Secretary of Labor to finalize mandatory standards relating to the sealing of abandoned areas in underground coal mines no later than December 15, 2007, and that provide for an increase in the 20 psi standard currently in effect. Adequate seals are crucial to containing explosions and preventing the migration of potentially explosive methane-air mixtures from worked out areas to the working areas of an underground coal mine. In addition to the requirement in the MINER Act, MSHA's evaluation of alternative seals in underground coal mines has led the Agency to determine that revisions to existing standards for alternative seals are necessary.

Summary of Legal Basis: Promulgation of this regulation is authorized by the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 and the MINER Act of 2006.

Alternatives: As required by the MINER Act, MSHA must publish a regulation that increases the 20 psi standard. The Mine Safety and Health Administration is reviewing the information from recent accidents in underground coal mines and the draft report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to determine an appropriate and protective regulatory course of action. The Agency is also conducting test explosions in experimental mines to determine the relationships between seal design and construction and the ability to withstand explosive forces. This information will assist the Agency in developing new standards consistent with the requirements of the MINER Act.

Anticipated Cost and Benefits: MSHA will develop a preliminary regulatory economic analysis to accompany the proposed rule.

Risks: Properly constructed seals contain explosions and prevent the migration of potentially explosive methane-air mixtures from worked out areas to the working areas of an underground coal mine. Recent mining accidents and MSHA data show that there are problems with the construction and use of alternative methods and materials to create seals. The exact scope of the problem is unknown at this time. However, the reliability of seals in underground coal mines is in question because of their potential to endanger miners who work in sealed areas.

Timetable:
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Action                            Date                      FR Cite

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NPRM                            06/00/07
Final Action                    12/00/07


Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Required: Undetermined

Small Entities Affected: Businesses

Government Levels Affected: None

URL For More Information:
www.msha.gov/regsinfo.htm www.regulations.gov

URL For Public Comments:
www.regulations.gov

Agency Contact: Patricia W. Silvey, Director, Office of Standards,
Regulations, and Variances, Department of Labor, Mine Safety and Health
Administration, 1100 Wilson Boulevard, Room 2350, Arlington, VA 22209-3939
Phone: 202 693-9440
Fax: 202 693-9441
Email: silvey.patricia@dol.gov

RIN: 1219-AB52

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