ST. CLAIRSVILLE, Ohio – Settlement negotiations are underway between an Ohio-based coal company and the federal government.

Murray Energy filed a lawsuit over safety regulations, initially introduced by former President Barack Obama, the government is trying to impose upon the coal industry. Now both parties are seeking to avoid the expense of litigation.

“The parties have since discussed their commitment to a structured series of conferences to consider a negotiated resolution,” A joint memorandum filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division said.

This same memorandum also included a request for the court to issue a stay on the case; a request that, according to Murray’s attorney, was granted.

“I can confirm that the stay was granted,” Dinsmore & Shohl attorney Vladimir Belo told The West Virginia Record.

Although the parties both seem committed to keeping the dispute out of court, Belo wouldn’t confirm the likelihood of a settlement occurring.

“The parties are just exploring if this is a possibility,” he said.

Introduced in the wake of the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster, the rule change the government is seeking to introduce would help enforce the “pattern of violations rule.” The POV was meant to beef up mine safety standards, safety inspections and punishments for safety violations.

Specifically, the rule would make it more difficult for mining companies to avoid the consequences of safety violations. No longer would they be able to delay punishment by continuously appealing citations, and no longer would the government warn companies of an upcoming inspection. 

Although the company would like to see the rule invalidated, it realizes that some semblance of the rule will likely remain after a settlement.

“It’s probably going to be short of invalidating the rule,” Belo said.

This dispute is one of many recent skirmishes between the government and the coal industry. 

“The Obama administration’s pattern-of-violations rule is deeply flawed, clearly illegal, and does absolutely nothing to benefit the health or safety of our coal miners,” Gary Broadbent, a spokesman for Murray, told the West Virginia Gazette.               

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