Some of you may have had the misfortune over the last few nights to see this commercial. Produced and paid for by ex-convict Don Blankenship, the commercial features Gwen Thomas, sister of Grover Skeens, one of the 29 miners killed in the April 2010 Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine explosion. She defends Blankenship and blames the explosion on MSHA, asking President Trump to get to the truth.
Blankenship, you may recall, was the CEO of Massey Energy, which owned the UBB mine and was convicted in 2015 of a misdemeanor charge of conspiring to violate federal mine safety standards at UBB. He spent a year in prison. Blankenship was released earlier this year and is on a mission to exonerate himself and blame an Act of God, and MSHA for the explosion. Upon his release, he immediately launched a Twitter attack the government and former MSHA head Joe Main, and published a 67-page booklet that he wrote in prison about his supposedly unfair treatment at the hands of the government, calling himself a political prisoner.
Here’s the video. If you want to view it, keep a bucket near by in case you, uh, need it
OK, for those of you still with us, it’s hard to know where to start. I’m sure others more familiar than I am about the Upper Big Branch explosion will be writing about this, but here’s a short summary.
First, Thomas accuses MSHA of blaming her brother and other miners of causing the explosion. Not true. None of the reports on the mine disaster blamed individual miners. Business owners have responsibility for workplace safety and all of the many reports issued on the causes of the Upper Big Branch explosion blame Blankenship and the inadequate safety conditions he allowed in his mines.
Second, there was a ventilation problem in the mine, but not one caused by MSHA. All six of the reports on the causes of the UBB explosion blamed the company for a jerry-rigged ventilation system that failed to properly ventilate the mine.
Third, she talks about methane release. Methane releases are common in mines. Explosions as a result of methane explosions can be prevented or minimized by good ventilation and other measures to control ignition sources. The reports on the causes of the explosion found, however, that the main problem in the mine was not methane gas, but the failure to control coal dust. Coal dust is extremely explosive and needs to be covered by rock dust to prevent explosions. The massive explosion that killed the 29 coal miners was a coal dust explosion, not a methane explosion, caused by the mine’s failure to apply adequate amounts of rock dust.
I’m sure Blankenship will soon be calling newly nominated MSHA head David Zatezalo to plead his case, if he hasn’t done so already. Might be an interesting subject to raise at Zatezalo’s confirmation hearing.
I would encourage you to leave comments on the video site, but it seems that “Comments are disabled.”