Appalachian Mountain Advocates, Earthjustice and the Sierra Club released a poll yesterday showing that a majority of voters in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia oppose mountaintop removal coal mining. The poll, conducted by Lake Research Partners and Bellwether Research & Consulting from July 25-28, found that 57% of Appalachian voters oppose mountaintop removal mining while just 20% support it. This echoes the results of a poll released last week by CNN which found that 57% of Americans nationwide oppose the controversial practice.
“The survey data turns conventional wisdom on its head,” said Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Associates. “Not only does it show Appalachian voters opposing mountaintop removal and by wide margins, it also underscores that voters in these states are now treating this as a voting issue, and promise to punish elected officials who weaken clean water and environmental regulations on mountaintop removal.” Here’s a chart of the findings:
The opposition to mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia isn’t limited to one political party. As the chart below shows, majorities of Democrats, Republicans and Independents oppose MTR mining:
In addition to opposing mountaintop removal mining, the Appalachian voters who were polled also expressed bipartisan support for strengthening clean water laws. “Fully three-fourths (75%) of Republican voters, and 68% of Tea Party supporters, in this survey support increasing Clean Water Act protections from Mountaintop Removal coal mining,” said Christine Matthews, president of Bellwether Research & Consulting.
Appalachian Voices published the chart below, which shows that a plurality of voters in all four states polled oppose MTR:
Joe Lovett, Executive Director of Appalachia Mountain Advocates, offers this summary of the poll’s findings:
Elected representatives in Appalachia are out of touch with their constituents. The people of Appalachian want to be protected from mountaintop removal mining. They want environmental regulations enforced. But in Congress and statehouses, officials protect special interests instead, working to gut the Clean Water Act instead of enforcing it and strengthening it.
Virginia blogger Lowell Feld spoke with Jane Branham of the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards in Virginia, who shared some additional context:
First, only a tiny percentage of people (11%) in “coal country” are employed directly in the coal economy. Second, mountaintop removal coal mining, in addition to harming peoples’ health (she said “it’s literally killing people,” and she’s absolutely correct on that) and the environment, actually destroys jobs, as it’s a highly mechanized (capital intensive) form of mining that requires few human beings to run. Finally, what’s particularly disturbing is how afraid people are, despite their opposition to this barbaric practice, to speak out. That’s due to the intimidation of the coal companies and its allies, in a wide variety of ways – economic and otherwise.