The state's senior senator, Democrat Jay Rockefeller, said that the EPA's Jackson "doesn't understand the sensitivities economically of what unemployment means. Her job is relatively simple: clean everything up, keep it clean, don't do anything to disturb perfection. Well, you can't do coal and do that at the same time. God didn't make coal to be an easy thing to work with.''
EPA spokesman Brendan Gilfillan responded: "This administrator has been clear in rejecting the false suggestion that any of the steps EPA is taking actually threaten to weaken the economy or increase unemployment.''
Next January, the EPA plans to start regulating greenhouse gas emissions that are blamed for global warming, another cause of alarm for the coal miners. Rockefeller has sponsored legislation to suspend that for two years.
Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., urged support for Rockefeller's measure.
"We are not going to let the EPA regulate coal out of business,'' he said.
Although the rally was billed as bipartisan and a number of Democrats spoke, there were some partisan comments, especially from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. He said that this administration and current Congress are the most anti-coal in history.
"Send them a message on November 2,'' he yelled to cheers.
The rival rally was organized by the Natural Resources Defense Council's Music Saves Mountains campaign, which features singers and musicians who support the group's anti-mountaintop mining effort. Only three-dozen or so people showed up, but this isn't the main event: opponents expect thousands to attend their Appalachia Rising rally in D.C. on Sept. 27.
People here sported signs like, "Topless Mountains are Obscene'' and "Save a Mountain, Build a Windmill.''