This news story originally provided by the The Charleston Gazette
mountaintop removal, poll shows
West Virginians oppose mountaintop removal mining
and Bush administration efforts to weaken restrictions on the
practice, according to a new poll to be released today.
The survey, by Democratic pollster Celinda Lake,
found that 56 percent of West Virginians oppose mountaintop removal.
The Appalachian Center for the Economy and the
Environment, a regional policy and law center based in Lewisburg,
paid Lakes firm, Lake Snell Perry & Associates, to conduct
West Virginians know that the coal industry is
using our resources for short-term gains at the expense of our
future, said Joe Lovett, an environmental lawyer and the
centers executive director.
The poll, conducted in mid-June, shows stronger
opposition to mountaintop removal than other published surveys.
West Virginia polls published in May and October
1998 showed 52 percent and 53 percent of those surveyed opposed
In questioning 500 likely voters, the new poll found
that 39 percent said they strongly oppose mountaintop removal.
Another 17 percent said they somewhat oppose the practice.
That compares to 12 percent who said they
strongly favor and 17 percent who somewhat favor
mountaintop removal mining.
Fifteen percent responded that they were not sure.
The poll has a margin of error of 4.4 percent.
The opponents of mountaintop removal are both
much more numerous and much more committed, Lovett said.
The poll found that opposition was stronger among
women, 58 percent of whom opposed mountaintop removal. Fifty-four
percent of men said they opposed the practice.
Opposition was very strong among union households,
with 65 percent saying they opposed mountaintop removal. Among
non-union households, 54 percent opposed the practice.
Fifty-one percent of those surveyed said they were
very concerned about the environmental impacts of mountaintop
removal. Another 28 percent said they were somewhat concerned,
according to the poll.
More details of the results are available online at www.ap
Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal
Association, said he could not comment in detail without first
seeing all of the questions asked in the poll.
Given who paid for it, I would think that they
are disappointed that it wasnt 100 percent against, Raney
Lovett and his group had already scheduled todays
release of their poll before a federal court ruling last week in the
latest legal battle over mountaintop removal.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin
ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers cannot approve new valley
fills through a streamlined permit process meant only for activities
that cause minimal environmental effects.
In his new ruling, Goodwin ordered the corps to stop
approving valley fills under a general or nationwide
Clean Water Act permit that involved little scientific review by the
agency. Instead, the judge said, coal companies must seek individual
permits that require more detailed environmental studies before they
can be approved.
Since taking office in January 2001, the Bush
administration has moved to loosen several key restrictions on
In its poll, the Appalachian Center found that 60
percent of West Virginians oppose Bushs actions.
Earlier this year, the Bush-Cheney re-election
campaign cited a 1999 Senate vote by Democratic presidential
candidate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., as one of the Top Ten Reasons
John Kerry is Wrong for West Virginia.
In that Nov. 18, 1999, vote Kerry helped to defeat
legislation proposed by Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., to overturn a
decision by the late U.S. District Judge Charles H. Haden II to
limit mountaintop removal.
Haden had ruled that a stream buffer zone rule
prohibited valley fills in most waterways, allowing them only in
smaller, ephemeral streams.
Byrd proposed to write into federal law an agreement
among federal agencies to exempt fills from the buffer zone rule if
they obtain Clean Water Act permits from the corps.
Kerrys running mate, Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C.,
voted in favor of Byrds legislation.
That year, the League of Conservation Voters
included the 56-33 vote against Byrds measure in its annual
The group noted that the House had already adjourned
for the year, meaning that Byrds legislation could not have
become law and making the vote largely symbolic.
Mountaintop removal was generally not an issue
during the gubernatorial primaries in May and, so far, has not been
an issue in the general election between Democrat Joe Manchin and
Republican Monty Warner.
Lovett said the poll results show that should
Fifty-six percent of those surveyed said they would
be less likely to vote for a candidate who proposed to weaken
mountaintop removal regulations.
I hope that politicians and candidates will
notice this and support the will of the people, and not the will of
powerful interests, Lovett said. If they wont consider a
ban which is what voters want they should at least consider
tightening regulations and laws to control the abuses that occur
under current law.
To contact staff writer Ken Ward Jr., use e-mail or