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United Mine Workers of America, International Union v. Zatezalo

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Beckley Division

October 16, 2019

UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, IINTERNATIONAL UNION, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID G. ZATEZALO, Assistant Secretary for Labor for Mine Safety and Heath, and THE MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          IRENE C. BERGER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The Court has reviewed the Complaint for Writ of Mandamus, Petition for Review, and Petition for Declaratory Judgment (Document 1), Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Document 8), Memorandum in Support of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Document 9), Plaintiff United Mine Workers of America International Union's Response in Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Document 17), Reply in Support of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Document 18), Intervenor Pocahontas Coal Company, LLC's Motion to Dismiss (Document 30), Memorandum of Law in Support of Intervenor Pocahontas Coal Company, LLC's Motion to Dismiss (Document 31), Plaintiff United Mine Workers of America International Union's Opposition to Pocahontas' Motion to Dismiss (Document 32), and Reply to Plaintiff's Response to Intervenor Pocahontas Coal Company, LLC's Motion to Dismiss (Document 33). For the reasons stated herein, the Court finds that the motions to dismiss should be granted due to lack of standing.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On November 29, 2018, the United Mine Workers of America, International Union (UMWA) filed a complaint alleging that the Defendants unlawfully violated the statutory and regulatory requirements for terminating a Pattern of Violations (POV) at Affinity Mine. The complaint further alleges that on October 24, 2013, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) issued a Notice of a POV to Affinity Mine, operated by Pocahontas Coal Company, LLC. Pursuant to the POV Notice and Sections 104(e)(1) and (2) of the Mine Act, MSHA began issuing withdrawal orders for Significant and Substantial (S&S) violations that it found at Affinity Mine during subsequent inspections. Pocahontas challenged the underlying POV Notice as invalid before an administrative law judge (ALJ) at the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (Commission).

         Pocahontas filed a motion for summary decision and the Defendants filed a motion for partial summary decision. On November 3, 2015, the ALJ issued an Order granting the Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment and upheld the POV Notice. On December 31, 2015, Pocahontas filed a petition for discretionary review (PDR) with the Commission, challenging the POV Notice.

         On July 10, 2018, Pocahontas filed a motion to dismiss its PDR because the Defendants had agreed to settle the matter by terminating the POV Notice at Affinity Mine. On July 17, 2018, Defendants filed a Response in Support of Pocahontas' Motion. On August 28, 2018, the Commission granted Pocahontas' motion to dismiss its challenge to the POV Notice.

         The complaint alleges that the Defendants unlawfully terminated the POV Notice at Affinity Mine because the Mine Act allows for a termination of a POV Notice only if an inspection of the mine reveals no S&S violations. The complaint asserts that, since there was no inspection of Affinity Mine, termination of the POV Notice was unlawful. The complaint alleges that this unlawful termination injured the Plaintiff by “discard[ing] the process for terminating a POV Notice contained in Section 104(e)(3) of the Mine Act and 30 C.F.R. § 104.4 of the regulations and replac[ing] it with another process that was not created by Congress or promulgated under the APA.” (Compl. at ¶ 32.)

         On March 11, 2019, the Defendants submitted a motion to dismiss the complaint and an accompanying memorandum, in which the Defendants argue, inter alia, that the complaint fails to establish standing. On August 29, 2019, Pocahontas Coal Company, LLC, was permitted to intervene in this matter and submitted a motion to dismiss the complaint, also alleging, inter alia, that the Plaintiff lacks standing. Because the Court agrees that the Plaintiff lacks standing to bring suit, other arguments in the motions to dismiss will not be addressed.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) raises the fundamental question of whether a court is competent to hear and adjudicate the claims brought before it. Federal courts derive their jurisdictional power to hear cases and controversies from Article III of the Federal Constitution. It is axiomatic that a court must have subject matter jurisdiction over a controversy before it can render any decision on the merits. Challenges to jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) may be raised in two distinct ways: “facial attacks” and “factual attacks.” Thigpen v. United States, 800 F.2d 393, 401 n.15 (4th Cir. 1986), rejected on other grounds, Sheridan v. United States, 487 U.S. 392 (1988).

         In this case, the Defendants have facially attacked the Plaintiff's complaint. A “facial attack” questions whether the allegations in the complaint are sufficient to sustain the court's jurisdiction. Id. If a “facial attack” is made, the court must accept the allegations in the complaint as true and decide if the complaint is sufficient to confer subject matter jurisdiction. Id. The burden of proving subject matter jurisdiction in a motion to dismiss is on the party invoking such jurisdiction. See Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991).

         DISCUSSION

         “An organization . . . can assert standing either in its own right or as a representative of its members.” Southern Walk at Broadlands Homeowner's Ass'n, Inc. v. OpenBand at Broadlands, LLC, 713 F.3d 175, 182 (4th Cir. 2013). To establish standing in its own right, an organizational plaintiff must show that “(1) it has suffered an ‘injury in fact' that is (a) concrete and particularized and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical; (2) the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant; and (3) it is likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision.” Southern Walk, 713 F.3d at 182 (citing Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Envtl. Servs. (TOC), Inc., 528 U.S. 167, 180-81 (2000)). “An organizational plaintiff must still demonstrate personal harm both traceable to the challenged provisions and redressable by a federal court.” Id. at 183.

         For an organization to establish standing as a representative of its members, it must show that: “(a) its members would otherwise have standing to sue in their own right; (b) the interests it seeks to protect are germane to the organization's purpose; and (c) neither the claim asserted nor the relief requested requires the participation of individual members in the lawsuit.” Hunt v. Washington State Apple Advertising Com'n, 432 U.S. 333, 343 (1977). The Supreme Court has consistently “required plaintiff-organizations to make specific allegations establishing that at least one identified member had suffered or would suffer harm.” Summers v. Earth Island Inst., 555 U.S. 488, 498 (2009). The type of harm necessary to satisfy the organizational standing inquiry is ...


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