A new poll [PDF] released today reveals that people in the heart of America’s coal country resoundingly disapprove of mountaintop-removal mining.

A strong majority of Appalachians told pollsters they oppose the practice — 57 percent to 20 percent. Opposition is strong in all four states where the polling took place — West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia — and across all education levels and political affiliations, including among those who identify as Republicans or Tea Partiers. 

Appalachians also overwhelmingly support stronger, not weaker, clean water protections for their streams, rivers, and lakes. Fully 75 percent of Republican voters and 68 percent of Tea Party supporters in this survey said they support increasing Clean Water Act protections from mountaintop-removal coal mining.

A recent national poll by CNN also revealed strong opposition to mountaintop-removal mining. But when that poll was released last week, coal industry lobbyists were quick to say that the opposition came from residents of America’s liberal coasts, whom they claimed don’t understand Appalachia and thereby don’t get to weigh in on this issue.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

This new poll conducted in the Appalachian 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. The poll highlights an important lesson: Even when economies are dependent on coal mining, and when many residents view coal and coal mining companies favorably, a majority still oppose the particularly destructive practice of mountaintop-removal mining.

The poll 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 say they will reward public officials who stand strong in protecting waterways and mountaintops in the voting booth, and punish those who seek to weaken protections.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Finally, the poll shows us that 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 polling [PDF] was conducted by Democratic firm Lake Research Partners and Republican firm Bellwether Research & Consulting, funded by Earthjustice, Appalachian Mountain Advocates (formerly the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment), and the Sierra Club. From July 25 to 28, the poll sampled the opinions of 1,315 registered voters in Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, and Tennessee.

Appalachians, like the rest of Americans, have had it with mountaintop removal. They know it happens at the expense of their homes, health, communities, families, and future, and they want it gone. The Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and our elected leaders owe it to the people of Appalachia to end this devastation once and for all.