Reading Room Certification


I.         Review of Reading Room

            The Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (Commission) is an independent adjudicative agency that provides administrative trial and appellate review of legal disputes arising under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (Mine Act).

            I have reviewed the conventional Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Reading Room, which is maintained by the Commission at 601 New Jersey Ave., N.W., Suite 9500, Washington, D.C. 20001, and the electronic Reading Room, which is maintained by the Commission on its website, to determine whether the rooms were in compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements.

            There are four categories of records that must be accessible through an agency’s Reading Room:

            1.         final opinions and orders

            2.         specific agency policy statements

            3.         administrative staff manuals and instructions to staff

            4.         records disclosed in response to a FOIA request that the agency determines are likely to become the subject of subsequent requests

            The Commission does not have records in each of the four categories. With regard to category 1, records which are published and offered for sale by an agency are excluded from the definition of Reading Room records. The Commission has long offered for sale copies of its “blue books,” which contain (in hard-paper copy) final decisions and orders of the Commission and its administrative law judges. Several sets of the Commission’s blue books are located in the library, which is nearby the Reading Room, and is accessible to the public. In addition, many of the Commission’s and judges’ older decisions are also archived on the Commission’s website in addition to their availability in the blue books. To ensure the availability of recent decisions and orders, the Commission places them on its website soon after their issuance, well prior to their publication in the blue books.

            With regard to category 4, because most of the Commission’s records are related to cases in litigation before the Commission, many of the FOIA requests for case records are made by parties or persons interested in particular cases. Thus, to date the Commission has not had more than three requests for any records involving the same matter. In the future, if the Commission can identify any records that will be the subject of three or more requests, we will post such material on the Commission’s website.

            The remaining materials in the Commission’s Reading Room fall into categories 2 and 3. For any reading room record created on or after November 1, 1996, the FOIA requires that the record be made available electronically as well as in paper format. All of the Commission’s category 2 and 3 records have been revised or created since November 1, 1996. The Commission makes these records available through its website. The records that are on the Commission’s website reflect current Commission policies and instructions. The Commission maintains a computer terminal in its Reading Room that allows access to its website. In addition, hard-paper copies of records in categories 2 and 3 are in identifiable binders or in pamphlet form in the Reading Room.

            The location of the Commission’s Reading Room is indicated in the FOIA Guide on the Commission’s website.

II.       Deficiencies Located during the Reading Room Review

            No deficiencies in the Commission’s Reading Room were found. However, it was determined that, in order to provide more clarity to the resources available in the Reading Room, it should be specified that a computer terminal that provides access to the Commission’s and its judges’ recent decisions, as well as electronic copies of other records that are available in the Reading Room, is located in the Reading Room. According, the Commission is revising its FOIA Guide on its website to provide that accessibility to a computer terminal is provided in the Commission’s Reading Room.

III.      Certification by the Commission’s Chief FOIA Officer

            The Chief FOIA Officer certifies that he has reviewed the Commission’s Reading Room and has not located any deficiencies under current laws or regulations. As noted, the Commission is providing more specification on its website as to accessing a computer terminal in its Reading Room that provides the most up-to-date decisions from the Commission and its judges and electronic access to other records that are maintained in hard-paper form in the Reading Room.