The United Mine Workers union wants to join the lawsuit which prompted last week's federal court ruling halting work at the largest mountaintop removal mine in West Virginia's history.
The union filed a request Friday to become defendants in the suit, which targets mountaintop removal at Arch Coal Inc.'s 3,100-acre site near Blair, Logan County.
The union filing coincided with an afternoon rally outside the Capitol which featured union President Cecil Roberts and other speakers.
At the rally, Gov. Cecil Underwood and coal industry leaders called for "a reasonable balance" between environmental concerns and Southern West Virginia's coal-based economy, which they say is threatened by the court ruling.
Temperatures hovering around 40 degrees and a brisk northwesterly wind did nothing to deter the approximately 2,000 people who gathered for three hours of speeches by Underwood, Roberts and other political, labor and industry leaders.
"We can have a clean environment and we can have it without destroying the jobs in our state," Underwood told the group.
Speakers said the rally was to call attention to the human costs of a federal court ruling that put a stop to the start-up of Arch Coal's proposed strip mine near Blair.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Charles Haden issued a preliminary injunction blocking work on the mine until a dispute over the legality of mountaintop removal mining can be resolved. Haden said he expects a trial to occur this fall.
Arch Coal executives have said the company will have to lay off about 350 miners by July if they cannot begin work on the new operation.
The union's request to join the lawsuit cites the layoff threat. However the court decides the dispute "will, in all probability, affect the jobs and job security of UMWA coal miners at the mine," the petition said.
"The disposition of the issues remaining to be resolved in this action may impair or impede [the union's] ability to protect the interests of its members," the petition said.