Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Blankenship - a heart as black as coal.

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 Trump for more lenient laws to protect "frightened" coal executives such as himself from prosecution. [See here , herehere , and here for background articles]. 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 writes: "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 complains about legislation proposed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) that would increase criminal liability for coal mine operators.

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 (UBB) 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. Mine safety advocates have been urging Congress for years to make such crimes felonies, but the legislation has made little progress. Blankenship got away with murder, although, in truth, Blankenship was simply just another fat cat capitalist conducting business as usual. 

In prison, Blankenship self-published a book claiming his innocence, titled An American Political Prisoner. 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. Blankenship's insistence on denying responsibility for the explosion has incurred anger and outrage from West Virginians and family members of the miners. 

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