CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An activist who was arrested on Thanksgiving Day outside the Governor's Mansion says he plans more civil disobedience protests to try to force West Virginia officials to test the dust generated by blasting at mountaintop removal operations.
"We're going to continue," Climate Ground Zero leader Mike Roselle said in an interview Thursday morning.
Roselle, 59, of Rock Creek, spent five days in jail after he was arrested when he tried to leave a container of mining dust for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on the mansion porch.
In a news release, Roselle said he wanted state officials to test the dust, citing scientific studies that show residents living near mountaintop removal sites face greater risks of illness and premature death. Citizen groups are promoting legislation called the Appalachian Community Health Emergency Act, which would require a more detailed examination of mountaintop removal's public health effects before new permits could be issued.
Roselle, a longtime environmental activist, came to West Virginia several years ago to encourage the use of peaceful civil disobedience protests aimed at shutting down mountaintop removal operations.
Last week, Roselle initially appeared at the Capitol to deliver a jar of mountaintop removal blasting dust to the Liberty Bell replica on the north steps of the building.
When that action failed to prompt a hoped-for arrest, Roselle tried to deliver a container of the dust to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin at the Governor's Mansion around 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
"I wanted to be arrested," Roselle said. "I did everything I could, but they weren't giving me what I wanted. When I went to the Governor's Mansion, they freaked out."
Police told Roselle they could not accept such deliveries at the mansion and encouraged Roselle to instead take the material to the state Department of Environmental Protection.
But if Roselle took the material to that agency, officials there would probably not test it either, according to DEP Secretary Randy Huffman.
Huffman said that such testing would not be helpful, because of questions about where Roselle collected the dust and whether the material actually came was deposited on the ground by a surface mining blast.
Huffman said he also wasn't sure that the DEP would send inspectors out to collect dust themselves at the same location and then have it tested. He cited potential difficulty in determining the source of the dust and then trying to connect it to any possible health concerns in the community.
"You would have to formulate some kind of study with the appropriate methodology," Huffman said. "That's likely something that would be much more broad than picking up a couple of samples and seeing what is in them."
Huffman noted one effort by the DEP to look at the issue. That effort, involving a series of February 2012 air samples, reported that air quality near mountaintop removal operations in Raleigh County "was well within applicable health-based standards."