CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- About 400 people gathered inside the state Capitol on Thursday afternoon to protest the recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decision to cancel the Spruce No. 1 permit for a new mountaintop removal mine planned by Arch Coal.
About 80 opponents of mountaintop removal also showed up.
Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin chaired the "Rally for Coal" inside the state Capitol.
"This rally is not about one coal company. It is not about lobbying for the industry," Tomblin said. "This is a rally to let Washington know that, by blocking that permit, they crippled a community of living human beings. ...
"This is a rally about jobs, plain and simple. When you create an atmosphere of uncertainty, you hurt our economy. You hurt our jobs.
"What the EPA has done is fundamentally wrong," Tomblin said.
The Rev. Mitchell Bias, from the Delbarton Regional Church of God, delivered the invocation.
"Coal is your will. You placed it here on earth. It is part of your master plan," Bias said. He prayed to God that 2011 "will be safe and secure for mining and the most prosperous year for mining."
Marie Gunnoe, an organizer for the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, said, "Something the coal industry needs to understand is that people are dying from the impact of coal on our health. They are ignoring us.
"We need to protect children in our future generations. We have a right to live here where we grew up."
Gunnoe led a group of mountaintop removal opponents, some of whom marched from Laidley Field to the Capitol. In 2009, she won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her work.
"Mountaintop removal is no longer a jobs issue," she said during the march. "It is a health issue. They are killing us by destroying our mountains and destroying our water."
Gunnoe, who lives in Bob White, Boone County, said, "Six generations of my family have lived there. We have every right to stay there. Don't we have the right to protect our water?"
Some people attending the rally wore black "Friends of Coal" T-shirts reading, "Pro-Christ, Pro-Life, Pro-American, Pro-Guns, Pro-Coal ... Republican."