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Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship has taken to video to defend himself against charges that he is responsible for the Upper Big Branch disaster – to the outrage of victims’ family members. Dozens of them and their supporters gathered earlier this month outside a federal courthouse in Charleston, West Virginia, to protest the claims made in “Upper Big Branch – Never Again."

Some of the protestors carried signs urging the federal government to prosecute Blankenship. A criminal investigation of the disaster and of Massey’s safety practices is ongoing.

“Upper Big Branch – Never Again,” which was produced and funded by Blankenship, was introduced online earlier this month – less than a week before the anniversary of the disaster. In it, Blankenship denies culpability for the 2010 explosion which killed 29 miners and blames the incident on a flood of natural gas that entered the mine – and on government regulations.

“OSHA is dictating changes without adequate knowledge,” claims Blankenship, in the 51-minute video.

"Another explanation"

In response to damning government reports that concluded that a poor safety record and failures by Massey management led to the tragedy, the video promotes the view that forensic evidence “points to another explanation.”

“Basically, the violations that were written at UBB had nothing to do with the explosion except that they did force the mine to make ventilation changes that reduced the air flow on the long wall by 60%,” said Blankenship.

Although four separate investigations found that Massey routinely violated federal mine ventilation standards and failed to control explosive coal dust, the video claims that the buildup of coal dust was not a factor in the explosion. “Forensic evidence proves that MSHA (the Mine Safety and Health Admininstration) got it wrong, and the media ignored all other explanations,” notes the film’s narrator.

"Politics still dominates"

One of the experts who disputes the dust build-up theory is Martin Hertzberg, Ph.D., who says in the video: “If you just look at the burn gases from either natural gas or coal bed methane it would be very difficult to tell the difference between those two. Politics still dominates the picture, unfortunately.”

Hertzberg is better known for speaking out against the idea of climate change, which he blames on “fear-mongering” by a “cabal of scientists.”

A millionaire attempting to stay out of jail

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts called the video “a feeble effort by one millionaire to stay out of jail.”

“The so-called documentary produced by Don Blankenship is little more than a rehash of thoroughly discredited theories as to what took place at the Upper Big Branch mine. It flies in the face of the conclusions four independent reports, including those by federal and state agencies.” Roberts added that it is “an affront to the families of the victims.”