(a) No hearing officer shall participate in a hearing if he or she has an interest therein. At any such hearing all testimony shall be given under oath and be recorded, but need not be transcribed unless an appeal is made.
(b) The manner in which hearings before hearing officers shall be presented and the conduct of hearings and appeals before hearing officers shall be in accordance with regulations prescribed by the regulatory authority.
(c) In the discharge of his or her duties under this article, any hearing officer shall have power to administer oaths, certify to official acts, take and cause to be taken depositions of witnesses, issue and serve subpoenas, compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of papers, books, accounts, payrolls, documents, records, and testimony, provide for site inspections or inspections of other operations. In the event of failure of any person to comply with any subpoena lawfully issued, or on the refusal of any witness to produce evidence or to testify as to any matter regarding which he or she may be lawfully interrogated, it shall be the duty of any court of competent jurisdiction or of the judge thereof, upon the application of the hearing officer in the name of the Alabama Surface Mining Commission to compel obedience by proceedings for contempt. Witness fees and other expenses involved in the proceedings under this article shall be paid to the extent necessary at rates specified by the director. Such expenses shall be deemed a part of the expense of administering this chapter.
(d) There shall be no ex parte communications of any kind relating to commission business, or proposed or pending cases, by or with any hearing officer by any party or representative of any party, or by any employee or representative of the commission.