Mar
04

Controversial Grain Inspection Case Ends With OSHA Withdrawing Citations, Fine

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By Bruce Rolfsen

A Nebraska grain silo inspection case thst sparked an outcry from lawmakers in Washington is being settled with Occupational safety and Health Administration withdrawing the citations and proposed $132,000 fine, representatives of the farm and OSHA told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 26 (Sec'y of Labor v. Niobrara farms, OSHRC, No. 12-0083, 2/25/14).


The case involving Niobrara farms and C.O. Grain, a grain storage facility adjacent to Niobrara, prompted protests starting in  December 2013, from senators and House members. The lawmakers claimed that OSHA's inspection of Niobrara and C.O. Grain in June 2011 had violated a congressional budget rider prohibiting the agency from inspecting small, predominately family operated, farms.
In response t the lawmakers' concerns, Brian Kennedy, assistant secretary of labor for congressional and intergovernmental affairs, announced Feb. 10 that OSHA had withdrawn the guidance memo allowing OSHA compliance officers to inspect grain handing operations on small farms and would draft new guidance.
In addition, OSHA officials said they would review cases to determine whether the rider had been vioalated.
'OSHA Collapse.' Niobrara's attorney James Luers of Wolfe, Snowden, Hurd, Luers & Ahl LLP in Lincoln, Neb., told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 26 that OSHA called him Feb. 24 to say that the agency wanted to close the case. Later that day, Luers said, he signed a stipulation of withdrawal that is now pending approval from an Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission administrative law judge.
Until the call from OSHA, Luers said, he had been expecting to have a hearing in July before and administrative law judge.
"I've never seen OSHA collapse like they did on this one," Luers said.
As part of the stipulation of withdrawal, OSHA and Niobrara agreed to pay their own legal costs. Luers said his client decided against seeking legal fees from OSHA.
"At this point, they are happy just to be rid of it," Luers explained.
Additional Facts Uncovered. In a written Feb. 26 statement, an OSHA spokesman told Bloomberg BNA that "during the course of the litigation additional facts related to whether Niobrara was operating an integrated farming operation covered by the rider, or was operating separate farming and grain processing operations, were uncovered." The statement didn't saywhat the additional facts were in the two-year-old case.
The spokesman added, it was never OSHA's "intention to violate the congressional rider or to inspect small farms."

© 2013 Wolfe, Snowden, Hurd, Luers & Ahl, LLP. All Rights Reserved.

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