FMSHRC Rules on Correct Standard for Approval of Settlements

On August 2, 2018, the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (“Commission”) issued a decision in Secretary v. The American Coal Company, Docket No. LAKE 2011-13, reiterating the correct legal standard to be applied by the Commission and its administrative law judges (“ALJs”) in reviewing proposed settlements.  

The Commission held that, in effectuating their Congressional mandate to approve settlements, the Commission and its ALJs should consider “whether the settlement is fair, reasonable, appropriate under the facts, and protects the public interest.”  

The Commission also stated that an ALJ shall consider both monetary and non-monetary aspects of the settlement in determining whether a settlement should be approved, and that either party should be permitted to provide facts to support the settlement.  Since the ALJ in the case below did not apply the correct standard in reviewing the parties’ submitted settlement, the Commission held that he had abused his discretion in denying approval of the settlement.

The ALJ’s denial of the settlement was therefore vacated, and the case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with the correct standard.

A link to the full text of the Decision may be found here