Coal mining executive Don Blankenship, who just finished a one-year prison sentence, asked President Donald Trump to help him expose the truth behind the 2010 coal mine disaster that landed him behind bars.
“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,” Blankenship said in a Tuesday letter to Trump.
An explosion killed 29 coal miners at the Upper Big Branch (UBB) Mine about 30 miles south of Charleston, W.Va., April 5, 2010. Investigators concluded that Massey Energy management failed to meet basic safety standards and pursued criminal charges.
“The 29 miners who perished at UBB died in a massive coal dust explosion that started as a methane ignition,” the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) said in its final report of the disaster in December 2011.
The government cited a pattern of safety violations and a culture of fear among miners,resulting in the failure to report hazardous conditions. Blankenship was convicted of conspiring to violate mine safety and health standards and served the maximum one year sentence.
Blankenship was released from prison a week ago, and immediately took to social media to declare his innocence and to criticize prosecutors. The former coal boss also wrote to Trump.
“What happened at UBB is simple,” Blankenship said. “MSHA cut the miners airflow in half, natural gas inundated the mine just days later, and sparks from cutting sandstone rock ignited the natural gas,” he asserted. “The explosion was not as MSHA claims, a coal dust explosion.”
Blankenship advocated for the break up of the MSHA into two, distinct entities. One to enforce regulations, and another to investigate accidents; similar to how the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) split responsibilities of the airways. The FAA regulate air travel, but the NTSB investigates accidents.
Blankenship also urged Trump to create fair, competitive trade that requires more domestically produced energy and to mandate American steel be used for infrastructure projects.
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