Six months after his release from federal prison, former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship has filed paperwork to run for the U.S. Senate.
Blankenship, running as a Republican, will look to unseat Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) — a Democratic senator he has long criticized, WCHS reported.
The former coal CEO spent a year in prison and was fined $250,000 after being convicted of conspiring to violate mine safety and health standards. That charge stemmed from an April 2010 accident at the Upper Big Branch Mine that left 29 miners dead.
According to The Washington Post, Blankenship avoided more serious felony charges:
Blankenship was not charged with directly causing the disaster, but he was accused of violating a long list of safety standards including mine ventilation, roof support and dust control, measures that have been effective in preventing mine explosions.
And while a jury acquitted Blankenship of felony charges, several investigations into Upper Big Branch — including one by the Mine Safety and Health Administration and one by an independent panel set up by the governor — concluded that Massey's pattern of safety lapses led to the accident.
Blankenship issued a 67-page book from prison, dubbing himself an “American Political Prisoner.” Manchin, who was governor of West Virginia at the time of the accident, harshly condemned Blankenship in 2014.
“I believe this permeated from the top down — from Don Blankenship down,” Manchin told ABC News. “I believe that Don has blood on his hands. And I believe that justice will be done.”
A 2011 report to the governor, ordered by Manchin, found that the explosion that caused the accident at Blankenship's mine could have been prevented:
The company's ventilation system did not adequately ventilate the mine. As a result, explosive gases were allowed to build up. The company failed to meet federal and state safe principal standards for the application of rock dust. Therefore, coal dust provided the fuel that allowed the explosion to propagate through the mine. Third, water sprays on equipment were not properly maintained and failed to function as they should have. As a result, a small ignition could not be quickly extinguished.
According to USA Today reporter Brad Heath, Blankenship remains under federal supervision as a condition of his release from prison:
Blankenship will have a hard time campaigning because, until May, he can't leave Nevada (where he's on federal supervision) without permission from his probation officer or a federal judge. pic.twitter.com/B1y7w0UC1y
— Brad Heath (@bradheath) November 29, 2017
The controversial former coal CEO sent a letter to President Donald Trump following his release from prison in May, highlighting how he and Trump both share “relentless and false attacks on our reputation by the liberal media.”
In that letter, Blankenship urged Trump to help him “put aside the media's false claims” about him and "help me expose the truth of what happened at the Upper Big Branch (UBB) coal mine.”
Both Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV) and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey have already entered the Republican primary race.