Why did he do it? He says he did it to uncover the truth and to try to prevent a similar accident from occurring again. As one would expect, he shines a positive light on Massey Energy and himself, and questions the findings and leadership of the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and the investigative teams that produced the “McAteer Report.” His conclusion is that future accidents can be prevented, not with politics and propaganda, but with science and technology.
Blankenship clings to his belief that the tragedy was caused by a massive natural gas inundation. The keywords are natural gas, not methane. In addition to methane, the readings from the mine’s fan after the explosion show significant amounts of ethane. Several “experts” provide background information as to the occurrence of natural gas and methane, but none of them refute MSHA’s findings.
According to the documentary, the McAteer Report blamed the incident on inadequate ventilation, saying the company also failed to meet rock dusting standards. The UBB mine was operating under a ventilation plan approved by MSHA, which Blankenship contends used 60% of the proper airflow. The entire gas inundation, dust and ventilation discussion glosses over the source of the ignition, which was one of the most damning pieces of evidence: the water sprays on the longwall shearing machine. One of the smartest moves MSHA investigators made was to plumb a water line to the shearer immediately and film it. Surprisingly, the documentary does show a brief clip of poorly functioning sprays, but never mentions it. Without a spark, there would have been no ignition.
If one stands back and suppresses the emotion attached to the worst mining tragedy in 40 years, the video does offer lay people a fairly well-rounded amount of information about the importance of mining. It also questions the regulatory process and suggests the agency is overreacting based on politics. In the video, Blankenship said, “the United Mine Workers of America and MSHA are living in the past. They do not see things for what they are because they are blinded by their dislike for business and certain individuals.” He also says hollow promises from politicians and excessive citations from MSHA are not going to fix the problem. He believes that, because MSHA does not have to answer to anyone and it investigates itself, it shields itself from blame.
So why did he do it? Blankenship is an intelligent, wealthy mining man. Love him or hate him, he is West Virginia proud. He knew those men and their families. Telling his side of the story will help heal his conscience. But, will it really affect policymaking or mine safety? Time will tell.