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Reckoning in Appalachia: Why Coal Mining Outlaw Don Blankenship's Conviction Matters

Reckoning in Appalachia: Why Coal Mining Outlaw Don Blankenship's Conviction Matters

Jeff Biggers

The landmark conviction of former Massey Energy CEO and coal baron Don Blankenship today on a misdemeanor conspiracy charge to violate mine safety laws is a small, but historic first step in holding mining outlaws accountable for their reckless operations.

While all good people should never stop fighting for justice on this plane, the law of karma kicks in where human systems of justice fall to payoffs, bribes, and the over-riding influence of the 1%. THAT (higher law) is a comfort.

Regarding Blankenship, it appears to be well-deserved, possibly wants a few more convictions, years in prison and civil damages payable to those injured.
It is interesting to consider the different constituencies present at this forum.

  • The working men, who feel exploited. When a major accident costing lives occurs, and such evident company guilt, they want managers and operators to pay. At other times they want middle-class pay from working, and from producing. (But ‘wanting’ is not the same as getting…)
  • The environmentalists, and their local allies, who view coal mining as damaging the countryside and the whole environment. The greener of them want an end to all coal mining and everything that coal means to the economy.
    – If you drive through coal country you will see yard signs that working men believe, correctly, that environmental goals will mean loss of jobs for many Appalachian working men, and depopulation of the hollows. Environmentalists know that, and think life would be better if West Virginians mass-migrated, a la ‘The Grapes of Wrath’, out of the hardscrabble land.
    – And those ‘Freeze in the dark’ bumper stickers haven’t gone out of fashion.