Don Blankenship has received what we expected for any part in the Upper Big Branch mine explosion in which 29 men lost their lives. High-priced lawyers have already appealed the charge; a misdemeanor for ignoring mine safety requirements, and he may spend no time whatsoever in prison.
One reason for this may be that Booth Goodwin, the Federal Prosecuting Attorney, apparently wanted the close relationship between coal and Joe Manchin kept quiet. Goodwin was appointed to the late Senator Byrd’s seat by former Governor Manchin to hold until Manchin’s term as governor was over. When Manchin was ready to become Senator, Goodwin stepped down, and later received his current appointment (which, incidentally, he has unexpectedly just vacated).
Manchin is largely responsible the deadly lack of safety measures in Upper Big Branch. He made far more money owning a coal brokerage firm, Enersystems, than as governor. So on at least one occasion, Manchin publicly told mine owners he would keep state regulators out of their way in order to get the coal out cheaply.
The first official report published after the disaster, authored by former MSHA director Davitt McAteer, stated unequivocally that it took place because of a “too cozy” relationship between the coal company and politicians! Stopping just short of naming names, McAteer’s team pointedly explained, “It is only in the context of a culture bent on production at the expense of safety that these obvious deviations from decades of known safety practices makes sense.“
By undercutting the long held mandate of entire agencies, Manchin’s “open for business” government thus sponsored manslaughter.
The regulatory permissiveness set in place by Manchin has been continued by Governor Tomblin. By virtually eliminating oversight of industrial waste disposal, this policy has also resulted in an alarming rise in deadly illness in West Virginia, as shown in insurance data. Nevertheless, the poorest WV counties are still those producing the highest-priced coal.
Yet the corporate-owned media remains silent, probably hoping for more huge advertising checks from the industries backing these politicians in upcoming elections. And as long as the media does this, “accidents” and toxic pollution will continue.