CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- On Monday, Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship wrote to governors of West Virginia and three other coal states to warn them that federal regulators are requiring underground mine ventilation plans that Massey believes might not be safe.
Blankenship told Gov. Joe Manchin and the governors of Illinois, Kentucky and Virginia that, "coal miners in your states are less safe because of MSHA-mandated ventilation plans that are currently in place in your states today."
However, in an interview on Wednesday, top Massey officials were unable to identify mines that Blankenship was talking about.
"We've not yet talked to other longwall operators," said Shane Harvey, Massey's general counsel. "At least not that I'm aware of."
Massey officials had distributed Blankenship's letter as part of an ongoing campaign to criticize the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration's handling of issues at the company's Upper Big Branch Mine prior to the April 5 explosion that killed 29 workers and injured two others.
Blankenship and other Massey officials have complained that MSHA required changes in the Upper Big Branch ventilation system that made the mine less safe, and Monday's letter warned that MSHA was taking similar actions at other mines across the coalfields.
"Ironically, perhaps the single biggest challenge to achieving safe mining is the current behavior of MSHA," Blankenship said in his letter to the governors.
So far, MSHA chief Joe Main and other agency officials have refused to comment on the Blankenship letter.