Flooding: What is Senator Kirkendoll talking about?

June 1, 2012 by Ken Ward Jr.

Believe it or not, I’m sitting here watching today’s House hearing on mountaintop removal through a second time … and I’m glad I did, because somehow I missed this the first time, and I swear — I’m not making this up.

I was listening to the testimony from Logan County Sen. Art Kirkendoll, a staunch proponent of the coal industry in general and mountaintop removal in particular. And here’s what he was saying, if I followed him: That he supports mountaintop removal in part because flattening off mountains provides a place people of his community can live without fear of floods.  Here’s what he was saying:

… We’ve gotten through two tremendous floods in Logan county in the last few months.  Millions of your dollars coming to our area, Army Corps, everybody in there, the troops, cleaning up our area. If those people had been on some of these surface mined areas that we have, that wouldn’t have happened.

Now, if you think you can’t get killed, go back to the Buffalo Creek flood a few years ago. A hundred and twenty four people.

Now, if I read his prepared testimony correctly, Sen. Kirkendoll went to Washington to try t0 defend the coal industry, to help in industry’s attacks on the Obama administration’s “war on coal.”

Ignore for a second the clear science that shows mountaintop removal mining generally makes it more likely that flash-floods in places like Logan County will occur, and will be worse when they do occur. But Buffalo Creek? Did Sen. Kirkendoll forget that the Buffalo Creek Disaster was hardly your typical flash flood? Does he not understand this was the collapse of a poorly engineered, poorly constructed, and poorly maintained coal-slurry impoundment that caused those deaths in February 1972?

And if he does know these things, how in the world does Sen. Kirkendoll think that talking about Buffalo Creek helps the coal industry?

7 Responses to “Flooding: What is Senator Kirkendoll talking about?”

  1. Christopher Adamson says:

    Obfuscation is a good rhetorical tactic to use when the status quo is threatened. One therefore does not know what to believe…

  2. Brad says:

    I hope someone at the hearing set the record straight about Buffalo Creek…and flooding in general.

  3. Dell Spade says:

    I believe his point was that if you live in the flood plain you may have flooding problems. He was actually talking about people moving out of flood plains to higher elevations.

  4. Anne Felty says:

    I’m not surprised. Grasping at straws to defend this horrible destruction of our state requires a STRAW, not an intelligent statement.

  5. Dianne Bady says:

    RE: the previous comment – but it is clear from the science that MTR makes flooding in the flood plain more likely, and Ken Ward’s previous work has shown that there is very very little development of any kind on former MTR sites. Claiming that MTR provides a good place for people to live to get away from flooding seems illogical.

  6. Allan says:

    Dell,
    You’re correct. He was suggesting that people should move to higher elevations. What you’re missing is that people have lived in the hollows for decades and have likely faced flash flood events. But the point here is that the Buffalo Creek disaster was an engineering project gone horribly wrong, not a flash flood event. The impoundment which held the coal slurry failed, and the toxic slurry flowed downhill despite assurances that this could not happen. Additionally MTR has increased flood events because the process alters the landscape. When you remove all that vegetation there are no root systems remaining to reduce surface water runoff. Most importantly, the communities were there before MTR. Why should they be the ones to move?

  7. Jim says:

    And how exactly would Senator Kirkendoll’s plan work? Would the Coal Companies donate the reclaimed land and install sewer, water, electrical power, gas, and cable to the properties? I doubt it. How would the people who lived on the floodplain, those whose properties are now unsellable because of the more frequent flooding, get the money needed to build or buy new homes on those leveled mountaintops?

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