By Timothy Cama
May 16, 2017 - A disgraced former coal mining boss is asking President Trump to help him “get to the truth” regarding the 2010 West Virginia mining disaster that led to his conviction.
Less than a week after leaving house arrest at the end of his one-year federal prison term, Don Blankenship sent a letter (PDF) to Trump saying that the numerous reports leading to his conviction ignored the scientific evidence.
He says he was a victim of a conspiracy of Democratic politicians like former President Barack Obama and Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) — West Virginia’s governor at the time of the blast — who believed that he must be responsible for the Upper Big Branch explosion and collapse that killed 29 miners.
Blankenship also pushed Trump to reject proposals to increase the criminal liability for coal executives and to break up the federal government’s mining regulator into two agencies.
He said he and Trump “share relentless and false attacks on our reputation by the liberal media.”
“I am hopeful that in considering this request to improve coal miner safety, you will 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,” he wrote.
He did not specifically ask Trump to reopen the investigation into Upper Big Branch but said “the truth needs to be told about what happened at UBB,” adding Trump “must get to the truth of UBB” if he hopes to improve domestic energy.
Blankenship told a West Virginia radio host last week that he wants Trump or whoever he names to helm the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to revisit the investigation.
Blankenship was CEO of Massey Energy Co. at the time of the disaster. Multiple reports concluded that a coal dust explosion that was entirely preventable caused the collapse.
He was convicted in 2015 of conspiring to violate mine safety standards.
Since shortly after the disaster, Blankenship has pushed his theory that natural gas fueled the explosion, caused by an MSHA directive to reduce air flow in the mine.
The various reports found that natural gas did lead to the explosion and the MSHA could have taken more action to force the mine to reduce gas concentration, but Massey was ultimately responsible.
Nonetheless, Blankenship unsuccessfully appealed his conviction to the Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit and is planning to appeal to the Supreme Court.