Blankenship thanks supporters, says truth will be revealed

By Don Blankenship | May 12, 2016

Friends, This is a too tardy thank you note for your having written a character letter on my behalf. My hope had been to write individual thank yous, but I have not found the time yet, so this a single letter to all of you. A few individuals have expressed regret that their letter didn't help since Judge Berger sentenced me to the maximum anyway. Let me assure each of you that your letter did help, and every one of them was much appreciated.

Friends,

This is a too tardy thank you note for your having written a character letter on my behalf. My hope had been to write individual thank yous, but I have not found the time yet, so this a single letter to all of you.

A few individuals have expressed regret that their letter didn't help since Judge Berger sentenced me to the maximum anyway. Let me assure each of you that your letter did help, and every one of them was much appreciated.

Foremost, they helped strengthen me enough to endure an indescribable injustice. Second, the letters told the prosecutors, the press, the judge and anyone who cares to read them the truth about what mattered at Massey – safety, jobs, community support and doing the right thing. Your letters put in the record Massey's focus on safety as the letters spoke of beyond the law safety policies, innovations, the Massey safety culture and of record safety achievements.

Certainly your letters fully refuted both Booth Goodwin's campaign rhetoric that I am like a drug kingpin and Steve Ruby's “60 Minutes” comment that Massey was a criminal enterprise.

You can be confident that no coal company ever focused more on safety, paid more wages or did more for the communities than Massey.

You may know that at sentencing Judge Berger chose not to allow me to speak about what happened at Upper Big Branch on April 5, 2010. What I hoped to do was make several key points about the explosion.

I wanted to do so because we and the press learned a great deal more about the explosion this past year, both in preparation for and during the trial, that has gone ignored up to this point. We and the press also learned of several government actions taken both before and after the explosion by Mine Safety and Health Administration.

We learned that prosecution witnesses believed MSHA destroyed documents and withheld emails pertinent to the explosion. Career MSHA ventilation specialist Bill Ross swore that he was told by an MSHA employee that MSHA ventilation expert Joe Mackowiac carried MSHA documents out of the MSHA office in trash bags not long after the explosion. He said that MSHA documents concerning prior inundations of natural gas at UBB in 2003 and 2004 were missing from the office.

We learned that the FBI knew of Bill’s claims and yet chose not to investigate them. We and the press learned that Bill Ross, then Massey's ventilation expert (MSHA’s former ventilation specialist), literally begged MSHA not to reduce the airflow on the longwall. We all learned that Chris Blanchard fought hard to prevent MSHA from reducing the airflow.

Bill Ross testified that MSHA personnel routinely used emails, yet the government only provided a handful to my attorneys even though Judge Berger had issued a subpoena requiring the government to turn over all UBB-related emails.

As to the explosion, the media likes to claim that the UMWA report and three government investigation reports are independent, and that they make clear that the explosion was a dust explosion. Neither is true. The reports were not independent, and they are not based on science.

We now know that science and chemistry prove the explosion was a natural gas explosion. Forensics makes clear it was neither a coal bed methane explosion nor a coal dust explosion.

The true scientists (and you can be assured that Massey hired excellent scientists to investigate the UBB explosion) say it in a more complex and complete way. But as ordinary folks, all we have to understand is that the explosion was not dirty enough, not hot enough and not powerful enough to have been a dust explosion.

Science simply disproves MSHA claims that the explosion was propagated by coal dust. Additionally, chemistry tells us that the gas that exited the mine was clearly natural gas from the ground and not coal bed gas from the coal seam.

All of this is important because it makes clear that contrary to the government’s claims that the coal miners were not doing their jobs, there is no evidence the miners contributed in any way to the explosion.

In fact, MSHA inspections in the days prior to the explosion confirmed that the mine was well rock dusted, and other evidence verifies that to be correct. The miners were not in the least responsible for the explosion.

They simply could not prevent it, and they could not prevent MSHA from requiring the ventilation airflow to be reduced. The miners also could not prevent, nor foresee, the huge inundation of natural gas that suddenly came from the ground beneath them.

It is terrible that MSHA refused to admit its error in requiring the air to be reduced and its importance to preventing an explosion such as the one that occurred at UBB. But it’s shameful that MSHA would blame those who perished. Most important going forward is that MSHA covered up the truth and, in doing so, has prevented meaningful improvements in regulations that could help reduce the chances of UBB happening again.

Again, I want to thank you for the letter you wrote. It meant a lot to me personally, and someday it will mean a lot to people who seek to learn the truth about Massey and UBB. The government cannot change the truth, but with the media's help it has thus far covered it up. All we can do is to continue our efforts to uncover it.

Sincerely and Gratefully,

Don Blankenship

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