Procedures for assessment conference.
The Office shall arrange for a conference to review the proposed assessment or reassessment, upon written request of the person to whom the notice or order was issued, if the request is received within 30 days from the date the proposed assessment or reassessment is received.
The Office shall assign a conference officer to hold the assessment conference. The assessment conference shall not be governed by section 554 of title 5 of the United States Code, regarding requirements for formal adjudicatory hearings. The assessment conference shall be held within 60 days from the date the conference request is received or the end of the abatement period, whichever is later: Provided, That a failure by the Office to hold such conference within 60 days shall not be grounds for dismissal of all or part of an assessment unless the person against whom the proposed penalty has been assessed proves actual prejudice as a result of the delay.
The Office shall post notice of the time and place of the conference at the State or field office closest to the mine at least 5 days before the conference. Any person shall have a right to attend and participate in the conference.
The conference officer shall consider all relevant information on the violation. Within 30 days after the conference is held, the conference officer shall either:
Settle the issues, in which case a settlement agreement shall be prepared and signed by the conference officer on behalf of the Office and by the person assessed; or
Affirm, raise, lower, or vacate the penalty.
An increase or reduction of a proposed civil penalty assessment of more than 25 percent and more than $500 shall not be final and binding on the Secretary, until approved by the Director or his or her designee.
The conference officer shall promptly serve the person assessed with a notice of his or her action in the manner provided in 30 CFR 845.17(b) and shall include a worksheet if the penalty has been raised or lowered. The reasons for the conference officer's action shall be fully documented in the file.
If a settlement agreement is entered into, the person assessed will be deemed to have waived all rights to further review of the violation or penalty in question, except as otherwise expressly provided for in the settlement agreement. The settlement agreement shall contain a clause to this effect.
If full payment of the amount specified in the settlement agreement is not received by the Office within 30 days after the date of signing, the Office may enforce the agreement or rescind it and proceed according to paragraph (b)(3)(ii) within 30 days from the date of the rescission.
The conference officer may terminate the conference when he or she determines that the issues cannot be resolved or that the person assessed is not diligently working toward resolution of the issues.
At formal review proceedings under sections 518, 521(a)(4), and 525 of the Act, no evidence as to statements made or evidence produced by one party at a conference shall be introduced as evidence by another party or to impeach a witness.
[47 FR 35640, Aug. 16, 1982, as amended at 53 FR 3675, Feb. 8, 1988; 56 FR 10063, Mar. 8, 1991]