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Coal Baron Don Blankenship (Liable In Death Of 29 Miners) Claims That He’s A Political Prisoner

Most of you reading this probably know who Don Blankenship is. If not, it’s probably enough to say that he was the CEO of a large coal company, and that he was convicted (following the death of 29 coal miners in an explosion) of willfully violating mine safety standards.

Don Blankenship, CEO Massey Energy addresses a luncheon at the National Press Club  in Washington, DC, July 23, 2010. ©Mannie Garcia

Despite the “accident” occurring several years ago, he was finally sent to prison only just 5 or so months ago (to serve a 1-year sentence).

Amazingly, the former Massey Energy CEO has apparently decided that the reasons that he is in prison in Taft, California, are actually political, and not related to decisions he made that largely led to the deaths of 29 coal miners. According to a 68-page brochure recently posted on his website, Blankenship is an “American political prisoner” and his story is one “Americans need to know.”

68 pages? I guess that a year in prison gives one a lot of free time to rationalize their bad decisions.

Fortune provides more:

“This week, Blankenship continued to lay out his defense from prison without the use of a computer. … In the document, he refers to negative statements made by President Obama and Senator Joe Manchin before his conviction, and claims that Democrats and unions provided fuel for his prosecution. He also mentions Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, whom he protested at an event before he headed to prison.

“That Blankenship, a reviled executive and a symbol of the aging American coal industry, is equating his conviction with politics demonstrates just how political the loss of American coal jobs and the bankruptcy of coal companies has become.

“It was also echoed on the country’s main stage on Tuesday night during the first and only Vice Presidential debate. Republican Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence repeatedly referred to a supposed ‘war on coal’ conducted by Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Pence’s statements follow those of his running mate, Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump, in speeches over the last few weeks.

“Through her embrace of the solar and wind industries, Clinton has acknowledged that coal workers will lose jobs as the coal industry continues to decline. Trump and Pence have used those words to say she’s anti-coal and to gain support in states with coal interests. She’s also said that her words have been taken out of context and that she misspoke. Trump has claimed that if elected he’ll bring coal jobs back to states like West Virginia.”

Unfortunately for Trump (and to be clear I don’t support Hillary anymore than I do Donald), reviving the coal industry is something largely beyond his control. The decline of the coal industry hasn’t been the result of politics, but of changes and decisions within the private sector. Coal use has declined in the US largely as a result of the growth of the natural gas industry and renewable energy industry (coal’s just too expensive now). Trump and his advisors are very, very likely to be aware of this, and simply mouthing empty promises.

Photo: Rainforest Action Network via (CC BY-NC)


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Written By

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.


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