Happy Trails and Happy Thanksgiving!

We will be taking a break over Thanksgiving to assess where we are now in regard to getting the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to tell the truth of what happened at the Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine on April 5, 2010. MSHA has falsely claimed since a few days after the explosion and before any investigation that the UBB mine exploded because of management failures. Failures that MSHA says caused a coal dust explosion. These statements by MSHA are not just untruths they are lies. The difference being that MSHA inspectors and managers are not just mistaken they know these statements are untrue.

Our public campaign effort for the truth has been ongoing for nearly four years. It has cost me several million dollars, the anxiety of being indicted on knowingly false charges which carried a maximum sentence of life in prison, limitations on my freedom for the past three plus years, and a year in a federal prison for a misdemeanor conviction which resulted from a kangaroo court proceeding conducted by an inept and possibly dishonest Judge (i.e. Irene Berger). And yes the verdict was upheld by like-minded judges of the same political beliefs who did not have the integrity nor the intestinal fortitude to reverse the dishonestly achieved misdemeanor conviction.

The American justice system is so corrupted that one of the prosecutors was comfortable saying on television during my trial that the prosecution knew I did not commit the most serious crimes I was charged with. The misbehavior of United States Judge Irene Berger and United States Prosecutors Steve Ruby and Booth Goodwin was a transparent exercise of judicial tyranny not unlike what most Americans associate with communist dictatorships.

My constitutional rights provided me no protection whatsoever from Ruby, Goodwin, and Berger’s judicial tyranny. My right to free speech was not only taken from me but I was also punished for exercising my right. Ruby argued and Berger clearly agreed that I should be treated more harshly because my “free speech troubles the United States.” My constitutional right to a fair trial was trampled as well. Both Ruby and Goodwin fully ignored their own offices rules of ethical conduct as they lied, withheld so called Brady information that would have proven me innocent, and threatened to indict witnesses who were willing to testify on my behalf.

However, as bad as Goodwin, Ruby and Berger were they did not cause my death. United States Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA ) bureaucrats like ventilation specialist Joe Mackowiac and MSHA Chief coal regulator Kevin Stricklin on the other hand likely caused twenty-nine of the best coal miners in America to lose their lives.

Joe Mackowiac who was in charge of the UBB mine’s ventilation plan approvals bragged in an email to his colleagues at the United States Department of Labor that he had “picked a fight” with the company by denying their ventilation plan. In his email about some new puppies his dog had borne Mackowiac expressed his amusement at having denied the UBB miners their ventilation plan. A ventilation plan that had protected the miners from explosions multiple times during previous gas inundations into the UBB mine. A ventilation plan similar to the ones being used at other mines in the UBB area, which has also kept miners there safe during natural gas inundations at their mines.

After likely playing a role in causing the deaths of the UBB miners, Kevin Stricklin proceeded to claim before any investigation of the explosion that the operator had blown up the mine not MSHA. Stricklin then participated in developing a false investigation report which supported his false claim and which slandered the deceased miners. Senator Joe Manchin playing on the emotions of family members and seeking to advance his political career then shamefully used the families to support an obviously false narrative. The families were experiencing the grief of their losses when Manchin and Stricklin began their false accusations that the miners had failed to do their work safely for fear of losing their jobs. Essentially Manchin and Stricklin are claiming that the miners killed themselves for fear of losing their jobs. What a joke it is to say that any coal miner would be so afraid of losing his job that that he would risk killing himself. A mining job that at the time he could have replaced within 24 hours.

Our For the Sake of the Miners public campaign effort is meeting with some success. Hundreds of thousands of miners and coalfield residents now know that MSHA via Joe Mackowiac forced an airflow reduction, which put the miners at risk. MSHA’s Patricia Silvey admitted this in a letter last week. Incredibly Silvey has also admitted that more gas came out of the UBB mine for a period of time after the explosion than the mine released even when it was operating. She even acknowledged that the gas was not coal bed methane but rather natural gas. She also acknowledged that MSHA has UBB related emails that they have classified as privileged in order to support an argument that MSHA does not have to make the emails public.

Unfortunately MSHA is still unwilling to admit the full truth. The agency still falsely claims that the UBB mine experienced a coal dust explosion after a small amount of methane ignited and set off a coal dust explosion. They also claim that the miners did not maintain their miner bits and water sprays and did not properly rock dust the mine. These claims are not only false they are ridiculous.

But even worse is that if the MSHA claims were true then MSHA’s responsibility for the explosion is even greater and clearer. The reason being that had the air not been cut in half by MSHA a small amount of gas would not have caused the explosion. It is extremely likely that the 100,000 cubic feet per minute of airflow which the mine had before the MSHA required changes were made would have swept away any “small amount” of methane and no “ignition” would have occurred at all. Thus MSHA’s false claims incriminate themselves even more than the truth does. So too does their position that the mine was not properly rock dusted given that MSHA inspectors were in the mine everyday and the mine had no outstanding rock dust violations.

We have not decided our next and best approach to continuing our campaign for the truth, for the memory of the fallen miners and for the safety and sake of todays working miners. I am still considering whether running for U.S. Senator Joe Manchin’s seat would benefit our truth campaign. Some things are certain. If I were a United States Senator coal miners would be safer, I would not declare people guilty before a trial, I would not say that those accused of a crime do not deserve a fair trial, I would not favor treating Americans more harshly when they exercise their right to free speech, and I would criticize government agencies when they have caused deaths of miners.

Happy Trails and Happy Thanksgiving!