WASHINGTON, D.C. –(ENEWSPF)–September 26, 2016. The Sierra Club and West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy released a poll today showing overwhelming support in Appalachia for the RECLAIM Act, which would provide $1 billion for economic development and diversification projects in coal communities hard hit by America’s shift away from coal. Today’s release coincides with pre-planned lobbying events by a coalition of concerned residents and environmental organizations from the region seeking to urge their federal representatives to support the bipartisan bill.
The regional poll was conducted by a leading Republican polling firm, Public Opinion Strategies, and found that 89 percent of registered voters across Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia support the RECLAIM Act. Over one thousand respondents were surveyed in the region, including 150 registered voters in each state. At least 87 percent of voters in each state support the legislation, and majority support is also found across demographic and partisan subgroups, including:
- 91 percent of women and 87 percent of men;
- 90 percent of voters under the age of 35, 91 percent of 35-44 year olds, 84 percent of 45-64 year olds, and 92 percent of those over 65;
- 93 percent of Democrats, 84 percent of independents, and 89 percent of Republicans;
- 87 percent of those currently or formerly employed in the coal industry; and
- 88 percent or more in every income category.
“This poll paints a clear picture of support for the RECLAIM Act throughout the Appalachian region and reveals that there is a strong desire among its residents for more economic opportunities beyond the coal and mining industries,” said Grace McRae, Polling and Research Director at the Sierra Club. “Tellingly, support for the RECLAIM Act does not waiver as voters hear arguments from opponents against the bill and there is a strong sense that these communities are in need of assistance.”
By a two-to-one margin, survey respondents want decision-makers to prioritize helping these areas transition and diversify their economies, rather than fighting government regulations to help bring back coal mining jobs. Additionally, the respondents place equally high levels of importance on protecting water quality in rivers and lakes from abandoned mines as they do on assisting communities with economic development.
“Voters throughout these states recognize the struggles in the coal-mining communities,” said Lori Weigel, a partner at Public Opinion Strategies. “ Nine-in-ten tell us that communities that have traditionally relied on coal mining should work to diversify and attract new types of businesses. They clearly see this as an opportunity to help these towns do so.”
The poll was released in conjunction with a “Fly-in Lobbying” event for concerned residents and environmental organizations from the states polled who are eager for more state and federal action to help coal communities. They plan to meet with the offices of their Congresspeople and Senators to secure a support for the RECLAIM Act and working for stronger economic programs that will provide long-term job opportunities outside of the coal industry.
“I have taken time off from school and work to come here to Washington, DC, to stand up for communities in eastern Kentucky, where I was raised, and for the thousands of families across my state that are working hard for a bright future,” said Sarah Bowling, a member of the grassroots group Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, who lives in Lexington, KY. “We need Congress to get behind us and follow local leadership in building a dependable economy with good, meaningful jobs that create opportunities and repair our land and water. RECLAIM isn’t the cure all, but it’s a solid step in the right direction toward a just transition. We’re committed to doing what it takes to make this happen, and that’s why we are here.”
The RECLAIM Act was introduced by Hal Rogers (R-KY) and enjoys 20 co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives, but there is no companion bill in the Senate. Under the plan, $200 million will be distributed to participating states annually for five years from the Abandoned Mining Lands (AML) fund, empowering those states to work with local communities to identify and fund economic development projects at AML sites.
“With strong bipartisan support, including all three of West Virginia’s House members, we need leadership and support in the US Senate so coal communities can revitalize their local economies and build a brighter future,” said Ted Boettner, executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. “Passing the RECLAIM Act will help provide a foundation for future economic success while respecting the legacy of coal mining families across the country.”
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