United States District Court, District of Columbia
February 9, 2001
NATIONAL MINING ASSOCIATION, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
ELAINE L. CHAO,[FN*] SECRETARY OF THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, AND THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, DEFENDANTS. UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, ET AL., INTERVENOR-DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sullivan, District Judge.
PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION ORDER
At issue in this case are various revisions to the regulations
implementing the Black Lung Benefits Act, 30 U.S.C. § 901 et seq.,
recently promulgated by the Department of Labor after four years of
rulemaking proceedings. These regulatory revisions became effective as
scheduled on January 19, 2001. See 65 Fed.Reg. 79920-80107 (Dec. 20,
Pending before the Court is plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary
injunction, in which plaintiffs seek an Order from the Court
preliminarily enjoining the implementation of forty-seven (47) of the
regulatory provisions challenged, namely: 20 C.F.R. § 718.104 (d);
718.201(a)(2) and (c); 718.204(a); 718.205(c)(5) and (d); 725.2(c);
725.4; 725.101(a)(6); 725.103; 725.202(b); 725.209; 725.212(b);
725.213(c); 725.219(d); 725.309; 725.310; 725.366(b) and (c);
725.367; 725.406; 725.407 through 419; 725.456 though 459; 725.465(b)
and (d); 725.493; 725.502; 725.503; 725.607; 725.608; 725.701; 726.8
(d); and 726.203(a).
With the consent of defendants and plaintiffs, and without objection of
the intervenor-defendants, the Court in the interest of justice hereby
grants plaintiffs limited preliminary injunctive relief, and orders that
claims for black lung benefits shall be processed and adjudicated for the
duration of the briefing, hearing, and decision schedule set by the
Court, as follows:
1. The Department of Labor's Office of Workers' Compensation Programs
(OWCP) shall suspend, for the duration of the briefing, hearing and
decision schedule set by the Court, the adjudication of all claims for
black lung benefits filed after the new regulations became effective
(January 19, 2001). Notwithstanding this suspension' of proceedings, OWCP
(a) develop evidence and notify responsible
operators of their potential liability. The
development of evidence includes gathering information
relevant to the miner's employment history as well as
gathering evidence contained in the public record,
such as documents relevant to proof of age and family
(b) schedule miners for medical examination
and testing pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 725.406
(c) with regard to a survivor's claims, gather
existing medical evidence.
(d) continue to process the claim up to, but not
including, the issuance of a schedule for the
submission of additional evidence pursuant to
20 C.F.R. § 725; 410(a) (as revised).
2. With respect to claims for black lung benefits filed on or before
January 19, 2001, which remain pending before the OWCP at the time of
this Order, OWCP shall process and adjudicate claims pursuant to
applicable regulations, see 20 C.F.R. § 725.2 (as revised) (detailing
revised regulations that are not applicable to claims pending on January
19, 2001), with the following provisos:
(a) In any claim in which the district director
determines, in accordance with the regulations, that
the claimant is eligible for benefits but that a
formal hearing before an Administrative Law Judge will
be necessary to resolve the claim (either because a
party has requested a hearing or the district director
has ordered one), the Department will institute
payment of benefits to the claimant, prior to final
adjudication, from the Black Lung Disability Trust
Fund in accordance with 26 U.S.C. § 9501
(d)(1)(A)(1) and 20 C.F.R. § 725.420 and 725.522
(b) In any case in which a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge is either requested or
ordered by the district director, the district
director, pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 725.421 (1999),
will refer the claim to the Office of Administrative
Law Judges for docketing.
(c) If the district director determines that a
responsible operator (or its insurer) is liable for
the claim and such operator has made a timely request
for hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, the
operator shall not be obligated to pay benefits to the
claimant until an effective award is issued by the
Administrative Law Judge, and the provisions of
20 C.F.R. § 725.607 (as revised) (providing for
additional payments to claimant for failure to timely
pay benefits awarded) will not apply until that time.
3. All claims for black lung benefits pending before the Department's
Office of Administrative Law Judges at the time of this Order, or which
become pending within the period set by the Court for briefing, hearing
and decision on the merits, shall be stayed for the duration of the
briefing, hearing and decision schedule set by the Court, except where
the adjudicator, after briefing by the parties to the pending claim,
determines that the regulations at issue in the instant lawsuit will not
affect the outcome of the case.
4. All claims for black lung benefits pending before the Department's
Benefits Review Board at the time of this Order shall be stayed for the
duration of the briefing, hearing and decision schedule set by the
Court, except where the adjudicator, after briefing by the parties to the
pending claim, determines that the regulations at issue in the instant
lawsuit will not affect the outcome of the case.
5. Notwithstanding this Order, existing awards of black lung benefits
shall remain in effect and enforceable.
The processing and adjudication of all claims for black lung benefits
shall resume, without limitation, pursuant to governing regulations
following the date set for a decision on the merits absent further Order
of the Court.
And now this 8th day of February, 2001, upon consideration of
Plaintiffs' Motion to
Reconsider in Part Order Granting Intervention, to Clarify Intervenors'
Status and to Reserve Rights, and the Intervenors' Opposition thereto, it
is hereby ORDERED and DECREED that the Motion is denied in its entirety.