But, Stollings believes that although it's a good way to start, it's going to take a much louder voice to get the Environmental Protection Agency to hear how important coal is to West Virginia and the country.
The rally for coal was held in the State Capitol in Charleston last Thursday to show support for mining and protest the EPA's veto of the already-approved Spruce No. 1 surface mine permit.
The rally was organized by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and nearly 1,200 supporters attended and carried signs and clapped loud in support of pro-coal statements made by state and federal leaders, coal executives and miners. Not only did Gov. Tomblin speak out in favor of coal, but U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and many state dignitaries also had the crowd cheering loudly with pro-coal sentiments.
Stollings said Gov. Tomblin is already hard at work on a multi-state coal coalition that can send a louder message to the EPA.
"I see a lot of support for the coal industry and the way of life for West Virginia. Ground Zero is our area. Boone, Logan and Mingo is the epicenter of mining in West Virginia and I saw a lot of support," Stollings said. "This is America and people have the right to assemble. This sends a strong message from West Virginia."
But, Stollings said, a state like West Virginia with only five electoral votes, won't be able to change the EPA's stance on coal mining without the help of other coal-producing states.
"As I've said many times before, we have only five electoral votes, so we need to build a coalition of states and I know Gov. Tomblin has worked on that with other energy-producing states," Stollings said. "We've got to get Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Alabama and Wyoming together so we can do battle and our voice can be heard in unison. People must remember that we've lost major corporate offices that were here in West Virginia to St. Louis — I'm talking about Arch Coal — because of the instability of the coal mining industry. We've lost that already and we don't want to lose anymore. Companies can't invest in something when the rug is going to be pulled right out from under them."
Stollings said he believes a coalition of coal states is possible.
"Not only do I think it's possible, I think it's in the works right now," Stollings said. "It's mandatory. I really think the middle Appalachian states that produce energy, when you talk about them, they need to be talked about as one unit, then you'll get people's attention. I think this rally is a great first step. All the other things we've done have have fallen on deaf ears. We have to rally other coal-producing states if we want to be successful."
Gov. Tomblin said he was very impressed at the number of people who came out in support of coal.
"I think this will send a clear message to Washington, D.C., how the people of West Virginia feel about the EPA revoking the Spruce No. 1 mine permit," Gov. Tomblin said. "But, because there are so few states that do produce coal, our voice is low and we don't have a lot of supporters on Capitol Hill. That's the reason we're working with the other coal-producing states, their legislators and governors to have a bigger voice on Capitol Hill as it relates to mining coal."
Logan County Delegate Rupert Phillips said he believes the coal-producing states need to band together to send the message to the EPA that this issue isn't going to just go away.
"We're going to have to get with all the coal-producing them so that they can get on board," Phillips said. "It's going to take more than just West Virginia. It's like the EPA doesn't want us to work. Give us our permits and we can work. Let us work. We are hard-working people and we want to work. Coal have given us our freedom. It's our past, present and future."
Logan County Commissioner Danny Ellis said he believes coal rallies like the one held in Charleston are important to send messages to other states and the EPA.
"I think it sends a signal to not only the people of this state, but also to the people around the country that coal is very important — not only to Logan County and West Virginia, but also to the entire country," Ellis said. "I think this gives people the opportunity to come out and hold a sign or applaud and say 'I'm supporting coal, because it's good for us, good for the state and good for the country.' I know we would be in a whole lot of trouble without coal."
Mingo County Delegate Steve Kominar said coal rallies gather people together with a common goal — to let the EPA know how important coal is to everyone.
"This isn't just about the issue at Spruce Creek, even though we're very concerned about that. This is about everyone," Kominar said. "We have the best coal in the world in West Virginia. We mine coal more responsibly than any other state in the nation and we get no recognition for that and I think a rally like this, held here in the Capitol, brings everybody together to fight for that.
"I think the movement has to start here, where coal mining started. It has to start here and, even though we're a small state, we have to send our flags up high to let them know where we stand. Then, it might be like a bouncing ball that will go to Kentucky and then to Virginia. The attack is on Appalachian basin coal and that's us and that's why we have to stand up for coal. It's incredibly vital in places like Mingo and Logan counties. If we don't stand up for coal, then shame on us. We're pro-coal in the Legislature."
Kominar has co-sponsored a House bill that says the EPA shouldn't tell the West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection what to do.
"We've got to take a stand," Kominar said. "The bill tells the EPA that it cannot control mining permits in West Virginia. The W.Va. DEP will tell us we can or cannot have the permits."