Art Kirkendoll doesn't understand how a federal judge could call the layoff of more than 300 Logan County coal miners "purely temporary economic harms."
So Kirkendoll, president of the county commission, and other Logan County leaders have launched an all-out campaign against Chief U.S. District Judge Charles Haden II, environmentalists, newspapers and anybody else who questions mountaintop removal.
"I think this has gotten totally out of hand," Kirkendoll said.
Kirkendoll and Logan County business leaders led a group of residents who on Wednesday morning protested outside the offices of The Charleston Gazette.
"The true story that should be told is that the overwhelming majority of people from the area in which this process is taking place, such as Logan County, in fact support this method of coal removal," the Logan County Coal Vendors Association said in a letter to the newspaper.
A week ago, Haden issued a preliminary injunction that halted a new permit for Arch Coal's Dal-Tex mountaintop removal operation. Haden said there was enough evidence that the permit was illegal to warrant stopping it until a full trial on the case in September.
Since then, coal miners have protested outside the federal courthouse, Arch Coal has announced it will close Dal-Tex and put more than 300 miners out of work, and Logan County officials have geared up for a fight.
On Tuesday, a headline in The Logan Banner screamed: "This is war." An accompanying article compared the mountaintop removal battle to the United Mine Workers' fight to organize the southern coalfields and the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921.
"More than 60 years has passed since Logan County miners fought with government troops over control of the southern West Virginia coalfields," wrote Banner Managing Editor Michael Sisco. "The Logan County Commission fired the first volley Monday night in what they promise will be the second Battle of Blair Mountain.
"But unlike the historic and tragic battle of the 1920s, the enemy is not renegade coal companies backed by the U.S. government. According to commission President Art Kirkendoll, the enemy this time is out-of-state environmentalists backed by a court order which has placed the region's coal industry in serious jeopardy."
During the protest at the Gazette's offices, Kirkendoll and three other Logan County leaders came to the newsroom to discuss their complaints with a reporter and an editor.
County Administrator Paul Hardesty said the group's main complaint is with Haden.