CHARLESTON – Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship is asking President Trump to fight legislation that would administer tougher sentences to coal executives convicted of mine safety violations.
Blankenship, who finished serving a one-year federal sentence on May 10, sent a letter to Trump on May 16. The letter was posted on his website as well.
“Thank you for being a great supporter of coal miner jobs,” Blankenship’s letter begins. “No doubt you want to be even more supportive of coal miner safety.”
Blankenship was sentenced to a year in prison on a misdemeanor conspiracy charge for the 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in Raleigh County that killed 29 miners. A federal jury had convicted Blankenship of the one misdemeanor count, while acquitting him on felony charges of securities fraud and making false statements.
In his letter to Trump, Blankenship said the truth needs to be told about the Upper Big Branch incident. He also said lawmakers “too often wants to punish coal companies, coal operators and coal supervisors,” and he hailed Trump’s efforts to “roll back punitive coal mine and coal use regulations.”
“Coal supervisors are not criminals, and the laws they work under are already frightening enough for them,” Blankenship wrote. “More onerous criminal laws will not improve mine safety.”
He also criticized the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration and said the agency needs to be divided into two agencies: one regulatory and one to investigate mine accidents.
“The truth being told about UBB will make clear the need for a separation of MSHA's two core duties,” Blankenship wrote. “The truth will also enable the right legislation to be introduced and passed through Congress. That legislation will allow America's coal miners to mine coal at less risk to themselves. Coal that America needs to be great again.”
To read the full letter, go to Blankenship’s website.
Last week in an interview with The West Virginia Record on the day of his release, Blankenship said his legal team soon will be filing an appeal in his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, and he said some other actions related to the trial might happen in federal court.
He said he does want to clear his name, but he said there is a bigger issue.
“I’m more adamant about getting them to tell the truth, getting the truth out about the explosion,” he said. “That would vindicate everything.”
He also challenged Sen. Joe Manchin to a debate.
“I challenge Sen. Manchin to debate UBB truth,” Blankenship tweeted. “A U.S. Senator who says I have ‘blood on my hands’ should be man enough to face me in public.”
Blankenship expanded on that challenge on the phone.
“He didn’t respond the last time I asked him to debate,” he said of Manchin. “Instead, he said I had blood on my hands. He should learn a few things about what happened before making accusations.”
Blankenship said he’d debate Manchin “anytime, anyplace.”
“I’d like to have a public debate with him so the public can understand what happened,” he said. “Joe should do that because it brings attention to miner safety. And, there’s no better way to promote miner safety.”