The country's highest-paid coal executive, Blankenship is a villain ripped straight from the comic books: a jowly, mustache-sporting, union-busting coal baron who uses his fortune to bend politics to his will. He recently financed a $3.5 million campaign to oust a state Supreme Court justice who frequently ruled against his company, and he hung out on the French Riviera with another judge who was weighing an appeal by Massey. "Don Blankenship would actually be less powerful if he were in elected office," Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia once observed. "He would be twice as accountable and half as feared."
News of the nation’s worst coal-mining disaster in a quarter century — a methane explosion that killed at least 25 miners in West Virginia — has been accompanied by revelations that the mine in question, belonging to a subsidiary of Massey Energy, has an egregious safety record.
57 times in the last month, the mine was cited for safety violations — including for failing to properly ventilate explosive methane.
It seems this was less an accident than an accident waiting to happen.