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Powerful Opposition to MTR in the Heart of Coal Country

A major new poll released today reveals some shocking truths about public opinions on mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia.

The polling, conducted by the Democratic Lake Research Partners and Republican Bellwether Research & Consulting and funded by Earthjustice, Appalachian Mountain Advocates (formerly the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment), and the Sierra Club was done between July 25 and 28 and sampled the opinions of 1,315 registered voters in Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee on the practice of mountaintop removal coal mining and clean water protections.

The poll reveals beyond the shadow of a doubt that the people of America’s coal country—West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia—don’t like mountaintop removal mining and they don’t want it to continue at the expense of their homes, health, communities, families, and future.

The strong majority of Appalachians opposes mountaintop removal mining—57 percent, compared to 20 percent who support the practice—and this opposition soars no matter the political party. Independents, Democrats, Republicans and Tea Partiers alike have shown intense disapproval of this destructive form of mining. The will of Appalachians is transcendent: people from all education levels, political orientations, and all four states oppose mountaintop removal by strong margins.

The poll today also flies in the face of political convention. Appalachians overwhelmingly support stronger, not weaker, clean water protections for their streams, rivers, and other waters. Astoundingly, 75 percent of Republican voters and 68 percent of Tea Party supporters in this survey support increasing Clean Water Act protections from mountaintop removal coal mining.

We’ve seen the recent CNN national poll, which yielded similar results and revealed a strong national opposition to this practice. But when that poll was released last week, coal industry special interests were quick to say that the opposition weighed heavily from America’s liberal coasts, which they claimed don’t understand Appalachia and therefore don’t get to weigh in on this issue.

But this new poll from the mining region dispels the false arguments and myths put forward by the coal industry and by those politicians in Washington and Appalachian state capitols who are doing the industry’s bidding. It refutes many a false notion about where the people of Appalachia stand on this destructive form of mining. The poll homes right in on those coal states that are affected by mountaintop removal, and it teaches us one remarkable lesson: even when economies are dependent on coal mining, residents still oppose mountaintop removal.

Today, we heard from the people most directly affected by this devastating mining practice. We even heard from many in Appalachia who view coal and coal mining companies very favorably—but they still don’t support mountaintop removal mining.

The poll also serves as a powerful referendum on many elected officials throughout Appalachia who have been attempting to gut clean water protections and weaken regulations for mountaintop removal mining operations. Those polled are likely to reward public officials who stand strong on clean water protection issues by a margin of 3-to-1. Voters who want to punish elected leaders who act to weaken clean water protections on mountaintop removal mining outnumber those who don’t by a 3-to-1 margin as well.

And finally, the poll shows us that despite what the special interest lobbies and their pals in Congress claim, Appalachian voters aren’t buying the bogus line that environmental safeguards are bad for the economy. Sixty percent say these safeguards are either good for the economy or they have no impact (40 percent and 20 percent, respectively), as compared with only 25 percent who think they are bad for the economy.

The broad-based and far-reaching opposition to mountaintop removal mining undeniably tells us this: Appalachians, like the rest of Americans, have had it with mountaintop removal. They’ve had it with the destruction, they are aware of the threats it poses to their families and health and future, and they want it gone. The time for this destructive mining practice is over. The Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the nation’s elected leaders owe it to the people of Appalachia to end this devastation once and for all.
 

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unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.