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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. PENNSYLVANIA MINES CORPORATION (12/12/86)

decided: December 12, 1986.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCES, PETITIONER
v.
PENNSYLVANIA MINES CORPORATION, RESPONDENT



Appeal from the Order of the Environmental Hearing Board, in case of Pennsylvania Mines Corporation v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Environmental Resources, Docket No. 84-152-G.

COUNSEL

William F. Larkin, Assistant Counsel, for petitioner.

R. Henry Moore, Rose, Schmidt, Chapman, Duff & Hasley, with him, Joseph T. Kosek, Jr., for respondent.

Judges Craig and Doyle, and Senior Judge Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Doyle.

Author: Doyle

[ 102 Pa. Commw. Page 454]

The Department of Environmental Resources (DER) appeals from an order of the Environmental Hearing Board (Board) which vacated DER's order requiring Pennsylvania Mines Corporation (PMC) to cease operating a coal mine elevator until repairs were made to it. We affirm.

PMC operates a coal mine known as the Greenwich No. 2 Mine (Greenwich Mine), a deep mine subject to the provisions of the Pennsylvania Bituminous Coal Mine Act (Act), Act of July 17, 1961, P.L. 659, as amended, 52 P.S. §§ 701-101 to 701-706. One method of ingress and egress from the Greenwich Mine is the South No. 2 elevator (South elevator). In addition, two other elevators and a drift entry are available for mine workers to use in entering and exiting the Greenwich Mine.

The South elevator, which travels a shaft of approximately 440 feet, is electrically powered and designed to be operated in three modes: the automatic mode, the inspection mode, and the attendant mode. In the automatic mode, the South elevator operates similarly to any modern office elevator in that, via various electrical circuits, it starts and stops on its own through the depression of buttons both inside the elevator and at the landings, it levels itself at the landings, and the doors open and close automatically.*fn1 By contrast, in the inspection

[ 102 Pa. Commw. Page 455]

    mode the automatic circuits are by-passed; a specially trained operator uses an on-board control box to operate the elevator, and the leveling and door opening and closing functions must be done manually. PMC on occasion has used the South elevator in the inspection mode to transport miners when a malfunction has occurred in the automatic mode.*fn2

Pursuant to written approval by DER, PMC placed the South elevator into service on January 14, 1974. Before the South elevator was approved it was tested in all three operating modes, and it is undisputed that DER would not have approved the South elevator had there been a defect in any of the three modes. The DER approval, however, did not state that a defect or failure in one mode would require an immediate shutdown of the other modes.*fn3

In January 1984, during an inspection visit to the Greenwich Mine, two DER inspectors, Ardini and Johnson, rode in the South elevator while it was being operated in the inspection mode, apparently due to a defect in the automatic mode. According to the inspectors, the doors on the South elevator partially opened while the elevator was operating; the elevator did not stop when this happened; the doors did not close by themselves; and the operator held the doors together with his foot while the elevator continued. The inspectors, by letter dated January 27, 1984, in effect

[ 102 Pa. Commw. Page 456]

    ordered PMC to cease operating the South elevator until repairs were made to the automatic mode.*fn4 As authority for their order, the inspectors cited Section 306 of the Act, 52 P.S. § 701-306, which provides:

In the event of a breakdown or damage or injury to any portion of the electrical equipment in a mine, or overheating, or the appearance of sparks or arcs outside of enclosed casings, or in the event of any portion of the equipment not a part of the electrical circuit, becoming energized, the equipment shall be disconnected from its source of power, the occurrence shall be promptly ...


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