Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship is using his first few days out of federal prison to make outlandish assertions about the Upper Big Branch disaster. In an open letter to President Trump dated May 15, Blankenship appeals to the President:
“We share relentless and false attacks on our reputation by the liberal media.”
The letter is posted on Blankenship’s website in which he calls himself “American Competitionist.” He urges President Trump to:
“put aside the media’s false claims about me and help me expose the truth of what happened at the Upper Big Branch (UBB) coal mine in West Virginia on April 5, 2010.”
Blankenship spent the last year in federal prison after being found guilty of criminal conspiracy to violate mine safety and health standards. His behavior contributed to the 2010 coal dust explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine that killed 29 workers.
I suppose Blankenship’s affinity for alternative facts might resonate with President Trump’s. The former coal executive and convicted felon criticizes the investigations conducted of the UBB disaster. He says that four different investigations were rigged against him. The lengthy probes by the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, the State of West Virginia’s Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training, the United Mine Workers of America, and the Governor’s Independent Investigation Panel (of which I was a member) all concluded that the physical cause of the disaster was a massive coal dust explosion.
Blankenship asserts that these four investigations were
“…not confirmed by forensics [or] chemistry”
which is false.
He also asserts the four investigation were no confirmed by
“…an explosion expert’s scientific research”
which means his explosion expert, not other mine safety experts.
Blankenship insists the mine was inundated with natural gas, a spark ignited the case which caused the explosion. He offered is explanation shortly after the disaster occurred—long before physical evidence was assembled—and continues to say it. The Governor’s Independent Investigation Panel called it Blankenship’s “big crack” theory. We scrutinized the evidence and dismissed it as the source of the explosion. I’ve no doubt, however, that Blankenship will go to his grave insisting on his alternative facts about the “big crack.”
Blankenship’s letter to President Trump is peppered a half dozen times with “the truth.”
You “must get to the truth of UBB”
You should “put aside the media’s false claims about me and help me expose the truth of what happened at UBB”
“The truth needs to be told…”
“If the truth is not told…”
As a member of the Governor’s Independent Investigation Panel, I attest that we did not have any predetermined conclusion about what caused the UBB disaster. We were motivated to provide the truth of what happened and why to the families of the deceased UBB miners.
The truth is that Don Blankenship micromanaged his mining operations. His decisions created the culture where production trumped workers’ lives. Rightly so, he was convicted of conspiring to violate mine safety laws. His actions led to the death of 29 men. The truth is too difficult for the former Massey Energy CEO to accept. It’s no wonder that he holds tight his alternative facts.