Study finds support in W.Va. for more regulations, even if it costs jobs

The majority of West Virginians said they would vote for a candidate who supports stronger environmental protections and does not have ties to the coal industry, even if it means the state will lose jobs, according to a new poll.

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In the wake of the recent chemical spill, the Sierra Club, an environmental advocacy group, released a study recently that found two-thirds of voters would prefer a candidate who supports stronger regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency and the state's Department of Environmental Protection. Fifty-eight percent of voters wanted a candidate who is independent from the coal industry.

"West Virginians view this spill as a wakeup call and a clear indication that the state needs to take a different approach to environmental protection," the study found.

These same voters recognize the potential consequences of stronger environmental protections. Six in 10 voters said such regulatory efforts could lead to fewer jobs. But this does not "dampen" their support for stronger regulations, the Sierra Club said.

The support for stronger environmental protections is particularly strong among Democrats and independents, but even a number of Republicans said they are in favor of such measures.

In fact, 51 percent of Republicans would favor a candidate who does not have ties to the coal industry, and 44 percent would support a candidate who favors stronger environmental regulations.

Seven in 10 West Virginia voters were afraid that more disasters will happen without stronger protections.

"Voters overwhelmingly believe that a greater focus on regulations would have prevented the chemical spill, and there are very high levels of support for several proposals for stronger environmental regulations and protections," the study found.

Two-thirds of voters blamed the coal industry for general contamination in the environment. However, only 40 percent of voters blamed the industry for the recent chemical spill.