By Chris White
May 12, 2017 - Former coal CEO Don Blankenship lambasted federal regulators and challenged a lawmaker to a debate shortly after being released from prison.
Blankenship challenged Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia to a debate, shortly after his one-year prison ended. He was convicted in 2015 of conspiring to violate federal mine-safety laws at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, where 29 workers died in 2010.
“Sen. Manchin, MSHA lied about deceased miners. Forced miners to reduce air and then said miners were at fault. Shameful!!!!” Blankenship wrote on Twitter Wednesday, referring to what he believes is the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s hackneyed investigation of the mine disaster. He also blamed federal regulators for the mine disaster.
U.S. District Judge Irene Berger also fined Blankenship $250,000 for the misdemeanor charge. A jury in West Virginia acquitted him of securities-related felony charges that could have resulted in a far longer sentence.
Blankenship, who supported then-candidate Donald Trump’s presidential bid, said at the time during the hearing that he is “not guilty of a crime,” and told the families of the coal miners that they were “great guys, great coal miners.”
Manchin, who has been publicly critical of the former Massey Energy CEO in the past, issued a press statement dismissing Blankenship’s tweets.
“Mr. Blankenship doesn’t have to answer to me and he doesn’t have to answer to federal authorities anymore, but he does have to answer to the loved ones of the miners who died in his mine for the rest of his life,” Mr. Manchin wrote. “His refusal to accept responsibility for his criminal actions even now only exacerbates these grieving families’ pain.”
A spokeswoman for MSHA told reporters the agency wouldn’t be commenting on Mr. Blankenship’s tweets.