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Mining activist out of jail after five days

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An anti-mountaintop removal activist is free after spending five days in jail following his arrest for trying to leave a container of mining dust at the West Virginia Governor's Mansion.

Mike Roselle, 59, of Rock Creek, was released from the South Central Regional Jail on a personal recognizance bond. He had been held since Thanksgiving Day, when State Police charged him with trespassing and disorderly conduct.

Kanawha County Magistrate Brent Hall had ordered Roselle held on $10,000 bail.

Tom Rist, Roselle's attorney, said Roselle already spent more time in jail than the maximum sentence if he were to be convicted.

The trespassing charge carries a maximum fine of $100, Rist said. The disorderly conduct charge carries a maximum of 24 hours in jail or a $100 fine, he said.

"We intend to fight both of these charges," Rist said. "He didn't do anything."

Roselle, a leader of the group Climate Ground Zero, is a longtime environmental activist. He came to West Virginia several years ago and began leading a series of peaceful civil disobedience protests aimed at shutting down mountaintop removal operations.

Last week, Roselle initially appeared at the state Capitol to deliver a jar of mountaintop removal blasting dust to the liberty bell, located on the steps on the north side of the building.

Then on Thursday, Roselle tried to deliver a container of the dust to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin at the Governor's Mansion.

Police told him they could not accept such deliveries at the mansion and encouraged Roselle to instead take the material to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Roselle tried to leave a jar of the material on the porch of the Governor's Mansion. State Police troopers and Capitol Police told him to take it with him. When Roselle refused, he was arrested, according to a video of the incident that was posted online and a criminal complaint filed in magistrate court.

In a news release, Roselle said he wanted state officials to test the dust, citing scientific studies that show residents living near mountaintop removal sites face greater risks of illness and premature deaths.

While the scientific studies have not pinpointed the cause of the increased health risks, researchers have been focusing on air pollution generated when mine operators use explosives to blast apart hilltops and uncover coal reserves.

Tomblin has shown no interest in the mountaintop removal health studies, and has refused to meet with citizens who wanted to discuss the issue. Industry-funded researchers, though, have said that mine operators could take much more aggressive steps - including more thorough mine planning and more careful mining practices -- to limit the dust generated in this process.

Initially, Roselle's bail was set at $10,000, which generally means he could have been released if he had posted 10 percent of that, or $1,000, in cash. On Tuesday, though, he was released on a personal recognizance bond, which means he has promised to reappear to face the charges against him.

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.


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