Staff attorneys recently hired in the Philadelphia, Atlanta and Denver Regional Offices of the Solicitor have made “tremendous progress” in reducing a backlog of contested cases pending before the Mine Safety and Health Review, according to the Department of Labor (DOL).

DOL head Hilda S. Solis recently said reducing the backlog was “particularly important,” while testifying before the House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Committee on Appropriations.

“If we do not reduce the backlog, mine operators will continue to have a strong incentive to contest violations as a way of gaining time before civil penalties are finalized and patterns of violations are established under MSHA's existing regulations,” she commented. “This will lead to even higher contest rates and potentially unsafe mines.”

Although the DOL does not specify the number of backlog cases that have been resolved due to extra manpower in place during the last eight months, it says there’s been “a significant reduction of the backlog, and millions of dollars in civil penalties have been ordered to be paid in these cases.

The additional staffing was the result of the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2010 signed by President Obama.