Upper Big Branch explosion documentary angers Senator

By Sarah Plummer,Associated Press
Mine helmets and painted crosses sit at the entrance to Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch coal mine Tuesday, April 5, 2011 in Montcoal, W.Va. (AP Photo/Jeff Gentner)
(AP Photo/Jeff Gentner)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin is demanding his name and interview be removed from a documentary funded by former Massey Energy (NYSE: MEE) CEO Don Blankenship.

Manchin also told Chesapeake, Va.-based Adroit Films in a letter sent Tuesday to remove the documentary about the Upper Big Branch mine explosion from all websites. Manchin calls the film an attempt to vindicate its creator.

The explosion on April 5, 2010, killed 29 miners. Four investigations found the blast was sparked by worn and broken equipment, fueled by accumulations of methane gas and coal dust, and allowed to spread because of clogged and broken water sprayers.

The documentary "Upper Big Branch - Never Again" released Monday and its credits clearly state it is "a film by Don Blankenship." The film's opening disclaimer, however, says people's participation in the documentary via interviews "is not in association or affiliation with Don Blankenship." The documentary blames the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion on a natural gas explosion and asserts the Mine Safety and Health Administration and the media have been disseminating misinformation.

In the letter sent to Adriot Films Tuesday, Manchin states, "Your fraudulent behavior in securing the interview and your misrepresentation of my interview are actionable offenses." He goes on to state the company's failure to indicate the film was funded by Blankenship was a "gross misrepresentation of the true purpose of your film. Further, I would never have consented to the interview if I had known of your association with Mr. Blankenship. "

Manchin claims he believed he was being interviewed for a documentary on mine safety to be dedicated to the miners who lost their lives. Of more than 30 minutes of interview, less than two minutes were dedicated to mine safety, he said. The film, which focuses heavily on generalizations about the mining industry and its history, claims the explosion was caused by natural gas, which mine safety measures do not currently prevent.

Manchin demands the film no longer be distributed, be removed from all websites, and his name and likeness are removed.

An email to Don Blankenship and call to Adroit Films were not immediately returned Tuesday.

 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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