When it comes to mountaintop removal mining, a new CNN poll finds that most Americans are opposed:
Fifty-seven percent of respondents in a CNN/ORC survey released Thursday say they oppose the controversial mining process, in which a mountain is blasted apart and the debris deposited in nearby valleys. The coal is then dug out, and miners work to rebuild the slopes. About one-third of West Virginia’s coal is mined this way.
Thirty-six percent agree with Kish, according to the poll. Seven percent didn’t have an opinion.
Here’s the wording of the question CNN asked:
As you may know, companies that mine coal sometimes use a practice known as “mountain top removal.” Under this practice, a large portion of a mountain which contains coal is removed to allow the mining company access to the coal, and the soil and rock from the mountain is deposited in nearby valleys. Do you favor or oppose mountain top removal?
Note that the question doesn’t mention the use of explosives, which are used to literally blow off the tops of the mountains so they can be “removed.” The poll presumably would have found even greater opposition if CNN had used a more accurate description of the process.
Predictably, Bill Raney of the West Virginia Coal Association also took issue with the wording of the question. “I think you have to spend some time explaining that mountaintop mining is authorized by federal law, has been for years,” he said. It’s not clear to me whether adding something along those lines to the wording of the question would make a big impact. Regardless, it should be pointed out that it isn’t actually possible to conduct mountaintop removal mining without violating the federal Clean Water Act, so Raney’s claim itself is false.
Unfortunately, CNN doesn’t seem to have released the crosstabs of the poll, so we can’t see how the results broke down by demographics or partisan identification.
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