United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts on Friday told a crowd of coal miners that he's tired of trying to compromise with environmentalists.
Roberts gave no ground to calls for an international global warming treaty, additional power plant air emission cuts, and new limits on mountaintop removal mining.
"You can't say don't burn it in Washington and don't mine it in West Virginia and say you're not trying to take the jobs of every coal miner in the United States," Roberts shouted. "And I'm here to say no, no, and hell no."
Roberts delivered a fiery speech as the keynote to another "Coalfield Justice Rally" to protest a court ruling that halted permits for the largest mountaintop removal mine in West Virginia history.
The Cabin Creek native called a group of UMW pensioners and miners' children to the podium, and challenged environmentalists to tell him where money for retiree benefits or young people's futures would come from without coal.
"Look in these children's eyes and tell me it's fair that they cannot grow up in the state they were born in," Roberts said. "Is it right to tell them to go to North Carolina and meet new friends in a strange place and graduate from a strange high school somewhere in North Carolina?"
About 500 miners and their families gathered on the north steps of the Capitol just before noon for the event.
After about an hourlong rally, the group marched down Kanawaha Boulevard to the federal courthouse to protest the ruling by Chief U.S. District Judge Charles Haden II.
"Hey hey, ho ho, Judge Haden has got to go," the miners chanted.
The turnout was one-quarter of those who showed up at a similar rally two weeks ago, and far less than the 5,000 to 10,000 some promoters were predicting.
Roberts had given all UMW miners nationwide the day off Friday, and said he was disappointed - but not necessarily surprised - by the low turnout. Miners also had Thursday off as a union holiday.
"Yesterday was a holiday and today's a day off," Roberts said. "Saturday and Sunday makes it a vacation.
"You do me a favor, though," he told the crowd. "When you go home, you tell those people that if they don't start rallying soon, they'll be on a long vacation."
Gov. Cecil Underwood, state coal lobbyists and operators, and coalfield elected officials joined Roberts and UMW District 17 President Bob Phalen on the podium.
Underwood touted a new state law, which he signed Thursday, as the answer to many of the complaints about mountaintop removal. Underwood said the law was based on recommendations of a task force he appointed to study the issue.
The last time the union called a contract-sanctioned memorial day off from work, it was so that miners in West Virginia could vote for Democrat Charlotte Pritt over Underwood in the 1996 election. Underwood won easily.