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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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News Release

MSHA News Release: [01/30/2012]
Contact Name: Mary Brandenberger
Phone Number: (202) 693-4651
Release Number: 11-1711-BOS

US Labor Department granted injunction against Vermont stone milling operation that impeded MSHA safety inspection after inspectors denied access

BURLINGTON, Vt. — A federal judge has granted the U.S. Department of Labor a preliminary and permanent injunction to enjoin the operators of a Pawlet slate milling operation from interfering with, hindering or delaying an inspection by the department's Mine Safety and Health Administration.

The J.M. Slate Mill performs stone cutting and sawing operations in leased mill space on the grounds of the Warren Switch, which places the mill under MSHA's jurisdiction and makes it subject to periodic federal safety and health inspections. When MSHA personnel attempted an inspection in August 2011, one of the mill's operators, John McFarren, repeatedly refused them entry and to provide information, and otherwise impeded the inspection process.

On Dec. 13, the department filed a motion with the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont in Burlington seeking an injunction against J.M. Slate, John McFarren, John McClure, Jesse Tyrell and unnamed partners to prevent them from refusing entry to inspectors, refusing to provide requested documents and information, and otherwise interfering with MSHA inspectors performing their duties under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977. U.S. District Judge William K. Sessions III granted the injunction on Jan. 4.

Defendant McClure, doing business as the mill's current operator, Dream Team Slate, agreed to the order enjoining him from interfering with MSHA inspections. Defendants McFarren and Tyrell, who represented in open court that they are no longer operating the mill, are similarly enjoined should they take any actions together with McClure to interfere with inspections.

"The law clearly states that MSHA has the right to inspect and gather information to determine whether or not there are hazardous conditions that could inflict injury or illness upon the individuals working in a covered operation," said Michael Felsen, the department's regional solicitor of labor for New England. "Without access for inspection, MSHA cannot fulfill its mission to determine the operator's compliance with safety and health laws, and to ensure the protection of miners from injury, illness or death."

Solis v. J.M. Slate and John McFarren, John McClure, Jesse Tyrell and unnamed partners
Civil Action Number: 2:11-cv-295