Voters in the heart of coal country oppose mountaintop removal coal mining, according to a poll released by Earthjustice, Appalachian Mountain Advocates and the Sierra Club.
The poll sampled 1,315 registered voters in Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee and found wide opposition to the destructive mining practice in all four states and across party lines.
"The survey data turns conventional wisdom on its head," says 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."
In the poll, voters were provided with a brief description of the practice as follows: “Coal companies in [STATE] mine coal from mountains through a process called mountaintop removal mining where the top of a mountain is removed to extract the coal and waste is disposed in nearby valleys and streams.”
The number of voters who oppose mountaintop removal dwarfs those who support it. The results of the poll indicate that 57% oppose the practice, and with noticeable intensity (42% strongly oppose), compared to just 20% who support it (10% strongly supporting).
In some of the most surprising data, the poll reveals intense and broad-based support for fully enforcing, and even more support for increasing, clean water protections to combat the negative impacts of mountaintop removal mining.
"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," says Christine Matthews, president of Bellwether Research & Consulting. "Even in these economically stressed coal country states, there is overwhelming support for increasing clean water safeguards - a far cry from disarming the EPA as some on the national stage have suggested."
Surprisingly, opposition to mountaintop removal mining crosses typical political boundaries, including 64% of Democrats, 60% of independents and 51% of Republicans.
Additionally, respondents reject the notion that environmental protections are bad for the economy. 60% say they are either good for the economy or have no impact (40% to 20%, respectively), as compared with only 25% who think they are bad for the economy.
"Elected representatives in Appalachia are out of touch with their constituents," says Joe Lovett, executive director of Appalachian Mountain Advocates. "The people of Appalachia 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."
"We've seen the polls that show national disapproval of mountaintop removal mining, but this poll clearly shows that the people in the heart of coal country have had it with mountaintop removal mining," says Joan Mulhern, senior legislative counsel for Earthjustice. "The time for this destructive practice is over. The people in Appalachia are making it clear in this poll that they recognize the threats to their health and communities. The Obama administration, Congress, and all of our elected leaders owe it to the people of Appalachia to stop this practice before even more damage is done."