Ex-Massey Energy CEO and ex-con Blankenship running for US Senate
Ex-Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, who served a one-year prison term on charges related to the deadliest US mine disaster, is now officially running for the U.S. Senate in West Virginia.
Blankenship kicked off his campaign Thursday night with a town hall meeting for voters in which he vowed to support President Donald Trump’s pro-coal stance with “actions.”
An audience of more than 100 people clapped heartily during his speech, the Associated Press reported, though one man whose son died in the 2010 tragedy said Blankenship’s move brings bitter memories for his family, and called it “a slap in the face.”
The 67-year-old was convicted and sentenced to one year in prison in 2016 on one misdemeanour count following a five-year investigation into an explosion at Massey’s UBB Mine, which killed 29 people. In addition to time in jail for conspiring to wilfully violate mine safety standards, Blankenship was fined $250,000.
He was released from a California-based federal prison last year and is presently serving a one-year of supervised release scheduled to end on May 9 — one day after West Virginia’s Senate primary.
The former coal boss has been a long-time critic of the democrat senator for the state, Joe Manchin, who’s seeking re-election.
In the Republican primary, Blankenship — who at one point declared himself an “American political prisoner” — will square off against U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
After the 2010 fatal explosion, Massey Energy was acquired by Alpha Natural Resources, which later filed for bankruptcy. As a result, many of Alpha’s assets, including safety facilities built as a result of settling legal matters regarding the incident, were transferred to Contura Energy.