Appalachian Voices coal ash NCWest Virginians hold the coal industry responsible for air and water contamination in the state, and they are tired of the stranglehold they believe the industry’s lobbyists have on state politics.

That’s just one of many powerful findings of a new poll out today about the aftermath of the January coal chemical spill in Charleston, West Virginia.

The Sierra Club and Hart Research Associates polled West Virginia voters, and look at the results:

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1) West Virginians do not view the January coal chemical spill as an isolated incident – 69 percent think the spill was a result of companies acting irresponsibly (only 21 percent saw the spill as an accident) and believe future spills will happen again unless something changes.

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2) West Virginians strongly support increased regulations and enforcement to protect air and water. And they don’t just want “better enforcement” in the abstract – they solidly endorse specific changes in policy and more EPA involvement in the state.

3) Two out of every three West Virginians support political candidates who are independent of the coal industry.

This is major news – even in a state long dominated by the coal industry, my fellow West Virginians have made it clear that a majority want strong Environmental Protection Agency and state action on coal industry pollution. They want the coal industry out of the pockets of their state politicians, and they want state leaders to stop cozying up to the industry.

Meanwhile, in North Carolina, where thousands of people are reeling after a coal ash dam leaked into the Dan River earlier this month, there is major frustration as well. State officials confirmed last week they’ve known for years that toxins from Duke Energy’s 14 coal ash ponds around the state are seeping into groundwater.

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That’s on top of the controversy surrounding just how close Governor Pat McCrory (a former Duke Energy employee) and the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources is with Duke Energy.  Recent reports have exposed the state’s practice of intervening in coal ash pollution suits brought by environmental groups, and then giving Duke a small fine that amounts to a slap on the wrist, while avoiding a full hearing before a judge. Federal attorneys are now investigating Duke for any possible legal wrongdoing.

So on Tuesday, February 25, hundreds of people are expected to rally at Duke Energy’s headquarters in Charlotte as the Sierra Club, Appalachian Voices, the North Carolina Conservation Network, and Greenpeace will deliver more than 8,500 letters demanding that the utility clean up its coal ash.

I’ll be in Charlotte at the Duke rally – if you’re in the area please join us!

Americans are standing up to the coal industry in the face of its continuous pollution of our air and water. How many more spills will it take before we see action by the EPA to close these coal water pollution loopholes?