The House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a hearing today on coal mining and the Environmental Protection Agency’s veto of the Spruce Mine in West Virginia. I didn’t cover the hearing, but Ken Ward of the Charleston (WV) Gazette did. He pointed out some peculiar testimony from West Virginia State Senator Art Kirkendoll.
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.”
Even if you forget the specious logic that surface mining provides flat land for coalfields residents to live on flood-free—and the fact that lawyers have successfully argued that many of the recent floods in the region have been caused by surface mining—referencing the Buffalo Creek flood of 1972 is slightly ridiculous, as Ken points out.
Buffalo Creek did kill about 124 people—I think the official count is 125—but the “flood” wasn’t of water, but of coal slurry. The flood was caused when a poorly-constructed impoundment dam broke in Logan County, West Virginia, and inundated the community. At any rate, it’s hardly an argument for increased coal mining.