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Manchin angry over inclusion in mine disaster film

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Sen. Joe Manchin said he didn’t know all the facts before appearing in a film funded by former coal executive Don Blankenship about “what really happened” at the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine disaster.

In a statement released Monday, Manchin, D-W.Va., said he was told the film was about mine safety, and never would have participated had he known Blankenship — who ran Massey Energy at the time 29 miners died in the explosion — was funding the project.

“I am not only livid that I was lied to, but I am even more enraged that Don Blankenship would manipulate a tragedy to promote himself and his own agenda,” Manchin said.

Blankenship recently told the Daily Mail he was funding a “documentary to explain what happened at UBB and to hopefully help avoid it happening again.” He released the project Monday — days before the four-year anniversary of the explosion — at the website www.ubbneveragain.com. The web address redirects visitors to www.DonBlankenship.com.

Soon after the April 5, 2010 explosion, families of victims and others in the community blamed Blankenship and Massey leadership. Blankenship resigned from Massey in late 2010 and continues to maintain he did nothing illegal.

He didn’t immediately return a Daily Mail request for comment.

Reports from the state, the Mine Safety and Health Administration and J. Davitt McAteer — a former coal official under President Bill Clinton — all say poor ventilation and coal dust build-up led to the fatal explosion. In addition, they say Massey has a poor safety track record and Blankenship spearheaded a culture that put profits before safety.

Blankenship has repeatedly disputed those findings. In the film Blankenship says MSHA essentially forced the mine to have a ventilation system that provided less air. This, and a build-up of natural gas, not Massey safety issues, led to the explosion, his film claims…

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