Is Coal Mining Increasing East Kentucky’s Flood Risk?

This story originally appeared on Grist and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Appalachian states like Kentucky have a long, turbulent history with coal and mountaintop removal—an extractive mining process that uses explosives to clear forests and scrape soil in order to access underlying coal seams. For years, researchers have warned that land warped by mountaintop removal may be more prone to flooding, due to the resulting lack of vegetation to prevent runoff. Without trees to buffer the rain and soil to soak it up, water pools together and heads for the least resistant path—downhill.

In 2019 a pair of Duke University scientists conducted an analysis of flood-prone communities in the region for Inside Climate News, identifying the most “mining-damaged areas.” These…

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