Commentary: Mining plays a roll in Kentucky flooding

How's this for a great idea? Let the coal industry render places uninhabitable, then require federal taxpayers to bail them out.

That's the remedy recommended by state Rep. Keith Hall, D-Phelps, who blames the flash flooding that wiped out residents along Harless Creek in Pike County on "urban sprawl," not the stripping for coal of an estimated 75 percent of the watershed.

Of course, state and federal regulators enable the destruction — by consistently ignoring the provision of the law that requires consideration of the cumulative impacts of mining before issuing a permit.

Staff writer Dori Hjalmarson reports that the state Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement cited just one instance of mining contributing to last month's widespread flooding in heavily-mined Pike County: a permit violation by Cambrian Coal Corp., which was using a sediment pond designed to hold runoff from 9.5 mined acres to contain runoff from 16 mined acres.

Overflow from the undersized pond created a slide that piled up dirt 4 and 5 feet deep against at least one home near Powell's Creek.

An independent expert identified numerous other instances of mining worsening the flooding along Harless. Jack Spadaro, a mining engineer who has been an official in both the U.S. Office of Surface Mining and the federal Mine Safe and Health Administration, toured the area and said he saw seven or eight landslides and crumbling valley fills from mountaintop removal and contour surface mines. Based on maps and seeing the area, Spadaro estimated that three-quarters of the watershed had been strip-mined.

To read the complete editorial, visit www.kentucky.com.