Sen. Paul: Regulation To Reduce Black-Lung Is Too "Burdensome"

April 06, 2011 11:01 am ET — Matt Finkelstein

Sen. Rand Paul

On the campaign trail last summer, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) made headlines when he answered a question about the deadly Upper Big Branch mine explosion by saying that such incidents are inevitable and the coal industry can regulate itself. "Is there a certain amount of accidents and unfortunate things that do happen, no matter what the regulations are?" Paul said, adding that people who don't want to subject themselves to the risk of working in mines will not "apply for those jobs." 

As the Courier-Journal reports, Paul took a similar position late last week during a Senate HELP Committee hearing commemorating the one-year anniversary of the Upper Big Branch disaster. Paul 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."

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.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) said Paul's comments made him "angry," noting that "black lung has plagued miners forever." Quincy Cook, who worked in a Kentucky mine for 28 years, was similarly unimpressed. "He probably don't even know what a mine is," he said. "Let him go in there and stay a while and see what it is."