In the middle of his campaign for U.S. Senate last summer, Rand Paul expressed in blunt terms his view of the controversial coal mining practice that has made mountain lovers unlucky in Kentucky. As reported by Details magazine in its profile of the candidate:
Paul believes mountaintop removal just needs a little rebranding. "I think they should name it something better," he says. "The top ends up flatter, but we're not talking about Mount Everest. We're talking about these little knobby hills that are everywhere out here.
In a TV interview a little while later he explained his support for mountaintop removal, saying: "I don’t think anyone’s going to be missing a hill or two here and there."
During his successful Senate run Rand also made headlines when he stated that incidents like the deadly Upper Big Branch mine explosion in West Virginia are unavoidable -- he actually invoked the phrase "accidents do happen" -- and therefore tighter regulations on the mining industry are unnecessary.
During a recent hearing on the one-year anniversary of the deadly mine disaster, Sen. Paul (R-KY) reportedly argued against a new rule that would limit miners' exposure to coal dust, which causes black-lung disease, saying that the regulation would be too "burdensome." As reported by the Courier-Journal:
Sen. Rand Paul questioned the need Thursday for new federal new coal-mining rules to reduce black-lung disease, despite federal figures showing the illness has been on the rise in recent years, killing about 1,500 miners annually. [...]
"Every regulation doesn't save lives," Paul said at a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. "There is a point or a balancing act between when a regulation becomes burdensome and our energy production is stifled. We have to assess the cost."
Paul said during the hearing that the government had done "a pretty good job" in recent decades of reducing the incidence of black lung - an often incurable and fatal disease caused by breathing years of coal dust.
But figures from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health show a spike in black lung rates in recent years.
As offensive and outrageous as his comments are, they are reflective of Paul's deep disdain for the role of government in safeguarding American workers and citizens. Indeed, the senator's virulent anti-regulatory streak explains why he has introduced legislation to overturn current and block future federal regulations that ensure our health and safety. His bill is called the "Regulations of the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act" -- commonly referred to as the REINS Act. (As in to "rein" in government, get it?)
Sen. Paul's legislation is explicitly designed to make it much more difficult to implement safeguards, including those that protect public health, the environment, and food safety. His bill would kill any significant safeguard that both houses of Congress did not approve in 70 days. Requiring such second-guessing by Congress of every potential public health advance would shift decision-making from experts to politicians; allow Congress to undermine existing laws without amending them; and enable a majority in one House of Congress to void legal protections, dispensing with the role of the other body and the President.
The REINS Act may seem ridiculous but it represents a very real threat to all of us. Here's a handy analysis of the bill by my colleague (and Rand Paul look-alike -- seriously!) John Walke. And here's a short video overview to learn more.