Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Coal Boss Jailed for Role in Deadly Mine Disaster Urges Trump Not to 'Punish' Executives

Popular
Coal Boss Jailed for Role in Deadly Mine Disaster Urges Trump Not to 'Punish' Executives
Rainforest Action Network / Flickr

By Nika Knight

Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship was released last week from prison after serving one year for his role in a deadly mine explosion that killed 29, and one of his first acts after being released was to appeal to President Donald Trump for more lenient laws to protect "frightened" coal executives such as himself from prosecution.


In the letter Blankenship published online Tuesday, the disgraced CEO wrote: "Coal supervisors are not criminals, and the laws they work under today are already frightening enough for them. More onerous criminal laws will not improve mine safety."

Blankenship specifically complained about legislation proposed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) that would increase criminal liability for coal mine operators.

Under the laws currently in place, Blankenship was sentenced to only a year in prison, despite being found guilty for conspiring to evade mine safety laws in the wake of the Upper Big Branch mine explosion that caused 29 deaths in 2010. The single year in prison was the maximum allowable sentence.

"Under federal law, violating or conspiring to violate mine safety and health standards is classified as a misdemeanor or a minor crime, with a maximum jail sentence of one year," observed Ken Ward Jr. in the Charleston Gazette-Mail. "Mine safety advocates have been urging Congress for years to make such crimes felonies, but the legislation has made little progress."

During his time in prison, Blankenship also self-published a book claiming his innocence, titled An American Political Prisoner.

Upon his release, Blankenship "raised again his own theories about the Upper Big Branch mine explosion, blaming federal regulators and nature. Those theories were discredited by four investigations," noted NPR. Blankenship has been aggressively tweeting such theories since his release May 10.

The U.S. government accused the coal executive of making the "cold-blooded decision to gamble with the lives of the men and women who worked for him" when handing down his sentence in March 2016.

Blankenship's insistence on denying responsibility for the explosion has incurred anger and outrage from West Virginians and family members of the miners. As Michael M. Barrick commented in his Appalachian Chronicle blog:

So, the families of those killed at UBB are again subjected to another news cycle of Don Blankenship pretending he is not only innocent, but as he wrote in his little pamphlet after his conviction, "An American Political Prisoner."

Meanwhile, surviving family members of the UBB tragedy are unwilling prisoners to the memories of their lost loved ones, for that and photographs is all that is left of them.

This, sadly, is too typical of the stories out of West Virginia. Don Blankenship got by with murder. His self-published book is infuriating; his continuing denials and appeals nauseating.

"The state of West Virginia is the poster child for the horribly negative effects upon working class people by crony capitalists," Barrick wrote, adding: "The truth is, [Blankenship] is simply another fat cat conducting business as usual in West Virginia, and getting by with murder in the process."

On Twitter, people immediately condemned Blankenship for his letter to Trump:

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

Plastic pollution lines a Singapore beach. Vaidehi Shah/ CC BY 2.0

By Tara Lohan

Our plastic pollution problem has reached new heights and new depths.

Scientists have found bits of plastic on the seafloor, thousands of feet below the ocean's surface. Plastic debris has also washed ashore on remote islands; traveled to the top of pristine mountains; and been found inside the bodies of whales, turtles, seabirds and people, too.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A large loggerhead with other injuries washed ashore during the latest cold-stunning event and was treated at New England Aquarium. New England Aquarium

Hundreds of endangered sea turtles were stranded on beaches after suffering "cold stunning" in the waters off Cape Cod, Mass. Local rescuers and wildlife rehabilitators stabilized the turtles at the New England Aquarium (NEAQ) and National Marine Life Center and began treatment. Many of the sea turtles were transported by land or air to partner facilities around the Eastern Seaboard for longer-term care to make room for more incoming, cold-stunned animals.

Read More Show Less

Trending

On Dec. 21, Jupiter and Saturn will be so closely aligned that they will appear as a "double planet." NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory / YouTube

The night sky has a special treat in store for stargazers this winter solstice.

Read More Show Less
Rough handling can result in birds becoming injured before slaughter. Courtesy of Mercy for Animals

By Dena Jones

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was sued three times this past summer for shirking its responsibility to protect birds from egregious welfare violations and safeguard workers at slaughterhouses from injuries and the spread of the coronavirus.

Read More Show Less
A view of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge during Arctic Bird Fest on June 25, 2019. Lisa Hupp / USFWS

By Julia Conley

Conservation campaigners on Thursday accused President Donald Trump of taking a "wrecking ball" to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as the White House announced plans to move ahead with the sale of drilling leases in the 19 million-acre coastal preserve, despite widespread, bipartisan opposition to oil and gas extraction there.

Read More Show Less