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WV Voters Strongly Favor Clean-Water Rules, Even If Taxes Rise

PHOTO: Since the Freedom Industries chemical spill this spring, West Virginia voters have been overwhelmingly concerned about issues of drinking-water protections, according to a new poll. Photo credit: Dan Heyman.
PHOTO: Since the Freedom Industries chemical spill this spring, West Virginia voters have been overwhelmingly concerned about issues of drinking-water protections, according to a new poll. Photo credit: Dan Heyman.
October 10, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginia voters overwhelmingly favor strong clean-water protections, and most are even willing to pay more taxes to get them.

In a new poll voters were asked about specific water protections such as environmental monitoring and hiring the inspectors to do it; as well as the requirement that utilities have alternate intakes in case of chemical spills.

According to Karan Ireland, development director for the West Virginia Citizens Action Group, about three-quarters said they favored the tougher rules.

"It's one of their top priorities," Ireland says. "They're very concerned about what their policymakers are going to do to ensure they have access to clean, safe water."

Three quarters of voters said they were concerned about the level of pollution in the state's waterways. Nearly eight out of 10 wanted more government investments in drinking water infrastructure. Ireland says six out of 10 even said they'd pay higher taxes for clean water.

"Sixty percent are willing to pay more in taxes to ensure they have access to clean, safe water," says Ireland. "It just goes to show it is the top priority."

Ireland says there is a huge disconnect between what voters want and what political leaders are saying about the issues, now that the wake of the Freedom Industries chemical spill has passed.

"We expected politicians, candidates, to be talking about it," she says. "And we were surprised when they weren't. But the citizenry is still talking about it."

Ireland recommends voters make sure the issues show up in the political process.

"People who are concerned about it – get out to vote, and talk to their elected officials," she advises. "If it's the priority, make sure your officials are talking back to you about it."

Some of the clean-water rules have been criticized as limiting economic growth or hobbling industry. But Ireland says the poll found little support for that position.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV