Frankie Stover has worked at Arch Coal Inc.'s Dal-Tex mountaintop removal complex for 14 years, and he doesn't want a federal judge to cost him his job.
So Stover joined about 200 other United Mine Workers members at the federal courthouse in Charleston on Friday to protest against Chief U.S. District Judge Charles Haden II.
On Wednesday, Haden issued a preliminary injunction that could block a new permit for the Dal-Tex mine until September.
"Haden's butting in where he doesn't belong," Stover said.
The judge's ruling halts permits for Dal-Tex that were issued by the state Division of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"We don't need a DEP or a Corps of Engineers if the federal judge is always going to overrule them," Stover said.
UMW member Keith Curtis went even further in his criticism of Haden.
"Who's to say this judge is the one honest man in the world?" Curtis said. "Who's to say he can't be bought off?"
Angry miners gathered early Friday morning along the sidewalk and steps in front of the Virginia Street building. They waved signs that said, "Hard-Hearted Haden" and "For Hire: One Really Big Shovel and Experienced Driver." Passing drivers honked their horns, and many gave the miners a thumbs-up signal.
"You can't find another job in the state that pays what these mining jobs pay," said Curtis, an 11-year employee of Dal-Tex.
"We put a tax base into this state like you wouldn't believe," Curtis said. "If you pull coal out of Logan County or out of Boone County, you're not going to have any industry."
Terry Vance, chairman of the mine committee for UMW Local 2935, said the media has ignored the possible impact on coal miners and their families if mountaintop removal is scaled back. Vance and other miners singled out the Gazette's coverage, saying it was especially one-sided.
"You need to take a good look around at what you're impacting," Vance said. "We're people, not crawdads or spotted salamanders."
Friday's rally was the first major UMW action in defense of mountaintop removal, and Vance promised it wouldn't be the last.
"This is just the opening salvo of what we're going to do," Vance said. "We're not going to go into the ranks of the unemployed quietly."
UMW member Steen Bazzilla said he doesn't mind the judge looking closely at the Dal-Tex permit, but thinks Haden should have allowed the mining to continue while he heard arguments in the case.
"I want to keep my job," Bazzilla said. "We all need to get together and do this right."