A new poll by Lake Research Partners completely rebuts the concept that people, even ones who live in coal producing states, support mountaintop removal coal mining and/or oppose protecting the environment. It's simply, blatantly, and absolutely false. Here are a few poll highlights, with a focus on the Virginia/Tennessee breakout.
*Only 16% of general election voters in Virginia and Tennessee have a favorable opinion of mountaintop removal coal mining. In contrast, 40% have an unfavorable opinion, while 42% have no opinion or have never heard of, mountaintop removal coal mining. That's a 2.5:1 ratio against mountaintop removal coal mining in the coal producing states of Virginia and Tennessee!
*It's not that Virginians are anti-coal, as they support "coal mining" in general by a 55%-23% margin. However, they strongly disapprove of blowing up mountains, trashing the environment and severely harming the health and economic well being of people who live in those areas, to get at that coal. As well we all should!
*When mountaintop removal coal mining is described to voters in Virginia and Tennessee, accurately, as "where the top of a mountain is removed to extract the coal and waste is disposed in nearby valleys and streams," the percentages of "strongly oppose" and "somewhat oppose" jump, to 41% for the former and 17% for the latter (total oppose: 58%). In contrast, support for this heinous practice is just 17%, with 25% still not sure. That's a 3.5:1 ratio against mountaintop removal coal mining, as soon as people know what it is.
*Given those results, perhaps it's not surprising that voters in Virginia and Tennessee favor banning mountaintop removal coal mining (by a 42%-25% margin), and overwhelmingly (74%-9%) favor "fully enforcing the Clean Water Act to safeguard streams, rivers, and lakes" in their state.
*As the press release accompanying the poll states, opposition to mountaintop removal coal mining "crosses typical political boundaries, including 64% of Democrats, 60% of independents and 51% of Republicans." In addition, "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."
I spoke with Jane Branham of the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards in Virginia, and she added several important points. 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. Perhaps it's time for those of us who consume the electricity generated from mountaintop removal coal mining to start speaking out a bit more?
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