Say What You Want, King Coal, Mountaineers Do NOT Support MTR
by Cindy Rank
Chair, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy Mining Committee
"Do West Virginia residents oppose mountaintop removal mining?"
Its hard to believe that we should still be asking that question.
After reading the scientific reports and predictions in the Draft Mountaintop Removal/Valley Fill Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIS), after years of reports of devastating floods and disappearing communities and families uprooted from their ancestral homes, after significant legal victories in the courts, after watching hundreds of brave individuals speak and demonstrate against the practice that is destroying their lives and livelihoods, we SHOULD be asking why this extreme form of mining can be allowed to continue.
However, the coal industry continues to fund massive campaigns to tell the world that coal is wonderful and that coal is a basic necessity for life as we know it and that any means of getting that coal out of the ground and into our lightbulbs is good for everyone. Industrys recent "cleaner and greener" and "coal keeps the lights on" campaigns are wont to imply that all West Virginians still worship at the feet of an ever-beneficent King Coal and that we support whatever it takes to get the coal out.
Of course, industrys assertions dont ring true to anyone who has seen first hand or heard about the impact mountaintop removal mining is having on the people and resources of the areas where the practice is occurring. But the fact remains that industry continues to claim that its only a few disgruntled miners, a handful of community dissidents and some radical environmentalists that oppose mountaintop removal mining and not a majority of West Virginians.
This ludicrous assumption has once again been proven false by a recent poll about mountaintop removal mining and environmental attitudes commissioned by the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment and conducted by the highly respected national polling firm Lake, Snell, Perry & Associates.
(As most readers know, the Appalachian Center is the law and policy group that has aided the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, OVEC and other citizen and environmental groups in appeals and litigation against illegal and devastating mine permits.)
The results of the poll fully support the belief that a solid majority of West Virginia residents DO NOT SUPPORT mountaintop removal coal mining! And indeed, many of those who oppose the practice are STRONGLY OPPOSED to the practice.
The strength and depth of these poll results prompted Daniel Gotoff, vice president of Lake, Snell, Perry and Associates to say, "Rarely do we see such unanimity of opposition. Across the state, a solid majority of voters opposes the practice of mountaintop removal, and there is remarkable intensity to that opposition. Furthermore, candidates for elected office should take heed, as many voters say they will consider a candidates opposition on this crucial issue when they cast their ballots."
The survey was conducted June 13-15, 2004. Professional interviewers talked by phone with 500 likely voters in West Virginia. Results of the poll reveal solid opposition to the practice of mountaintop removal mining and show that opposition to be broad and deep, across all demographics groups and every region of the state:
The poll also shows that voters are overwhelmingly concerned about the findings of federal government studies that describe the impacts of mountaintop removal on the states environment. After the initial questions about MTR summarized above, participants in the survey were read several of the findings from the EIS:
After hearing more about mountaintop removal, participants in the survey were told that many people responding to such a survey change their minds at the end of the survey and were re-asked the question about their opposition or support of the practice. A full 66 percent expressed opposition to the practice, only 26 percent still expressed support and 8 percent remained unsure.
In addition to questions about mountaintop removal, the survey asked West Virginians their opinion of current environmental policies and laws, as well as their thoughts on the Bush administrations handling of environmental issues.
In response, a majority of the West Virginians polled said that they supported strengthening current environmental laws and 60 percent of those questioned reported being strongly opposed to changes made to federal environmental laws by the Bush administration.
More poll results can be found at www.appalachian-center.org. Check it out.
Rumor has it that the coal industry has conducted their own polls, but all weve seen is increased PR, intrusion into the public schools by the coal-sponsored CEDAR program, and more permits coming faster every day.
*Yes, we know raccoons can't talk. But if they could ...