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MORTON v. BLOOM

December 12, 1973

Rogers C. B. MORTON
v.
Ralph BLOOM, Jr., Trading Under the style of Ralph Bloom, Jr. Coal Company, Bloom No. 1 Mine


Gourley, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: GOURLEY

GOURLEY, District Judge.

This proceeding has been filed pursuant to the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969, 30 U.S.C.A. § 801 et seq., hereinafter referred to as the Act. The immediate matter before the Court is plaintiff's request for preliminary and permanent injunctive relief as provided in Section 108 of the Act, 30 U.S.C.A. § 818.

 The Court has afforded the parties a full and complete hearing and has considered the briefs and arguments of counsel; and based thereon, the conclusion is compelled that there is no basis for granting the relief requested.

 The issue which must be decided here is whether defendant must submit to an inspection of his mine and comply with the Act's prescribed health and safety requirements or whether as a one-man operation, the mine in question, the products of which are sold totally intrastate, is not subject to regulation by the Act. The mines which fall within the coverage of the Act are set forth in § 803, which provides as follows:

 
"Each coal mine, the products of which enter commerce, or the operations or products of which affect commerce, and each operator of such mine, and every miner in such mine shall be subject to the provisions of this chapter."

 It seems logical to infer from this that not all coal mines were intended to be covered by the instant legislation, but only those whose products enter commerce or those whose products or operations affect commerce. It is clear from the definition of commerce contained in § 802 of the Act that that term did not include wholly intrastate trafficking in coal which is the case in this proceeding. Thus the question upon which the ultimate issue turns is whether the operations of or the coal produced by the defendant's mine "affect commerce." While defendant does use some equipment in his mine which was manufactured outside of Pennsylvania, it is so limited that its use would be de minimus.

 Unquestionably Congress has the power to regulate wholly intrastate activities under the commerce power, but these activities must be such that their regulations will facilitate the regulation of interstate commerce. As stated in United States v. Wrightwood Dairy Co., 315 U.S. 110, at 119, 62 S. Ct. 523, at 526, 86 L. Ed. 726 (1942), "The commerce power is not confined in its exercise to the regulation of commerce among the states. It extends to those activities intrastate which so affect interstate commerce, or the exertion of the power of Congress over it, as to make regulations of them appropriate means to the attainment of a legitimate end, the effective execution of the granted power to regulate interstate commerce." It seems apparent from this that not every wholly intrastate activity is within the reach of Congress to regulate, and the Court believes that it was not a part of the legislative intent of Congress to subjugate a one-man, owner-operated coal mine to the requirements of the Act.

 As can be gleaned from the legislative history of the Act, the purpose of the legislation was "to protect the health and safety of coal miners, and to combat the steady toll of life, limb, and lung, which terrorizes so many unfortunate families." *fn1" Needless to say, this laudatory purpose should not be technically thwarted, but neither should it be imposed on those whose activity does not affect interstate commerce.

 In short, this Court cannot perceive how the Act which seeks to minimize a predisposition for profits over safety would protect men such as defendant whose one-man mine operation by its very nature requires him to impose and implement his own safety precautions to insure his livelihood. Just a few examples developed in the record of this proceeding will serve to illustrate that the Act was not intended to apply to defendant. If he were subject to the legislation, although he is the only person in the mine, he would be required to:

 
1. establish a training program for his employees;
 
2. have a back-up signal on his cars so that no one behind him would be run over;
 
3. take and report dust samples, although as an operator and not an employee, he cannot get black lung benefits;
 
4. have a system of transporting injured persons so if he gets hurt, he can put himself on a stretcher and carry himself from the mine, although he ...

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