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AP Photo/Tyler Evert
Don Blankenship will need his probation officer’s permission to campaign in West Virginia.
ODD ODDS

A convicted former coal CEO still on probation for a mine explosion is running for US Senate

Zoë Schlanger
By Zoë Schlanger

Environment reporter

The CEO of a coal mine who served a year in jail for the worst coal-mining disaster in nearly four decades is running for US Senate in West Virginia, Eyewitness News first reported.

A 2010 explosion at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine killed 29 miners. Don Blankenship was convicted of ignoring federal mine-safety regulations and served a yearlong sentence in federal prison.

As ThinkProgress points out, Blankenship has called himself an “American political prisoner,” and contends that the Upper Big Branch disaster was caused by an air-flow directive from the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration:

Four investigations, however, found that the disaster was caused by worn and broken equipment that sparked and ignited accumulations of coal dust and methane gas. Blankenship had ordered Massey Energy to put safety improvements on hold, writing [paywall] to one executive in 2008 that “We’ll worry about ventilation or other issues at an appropriate time.”

Blankenship might also have a hard time actually reaching his intended constituents in West Virginia: He moved to Nevada this summer, and according to the conditions of his supervised probation, cannot leave the state without permission from his probation officer or a federal judge.

His supervision period ends two days after the West Virginia Republican primary in May.

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