Safety advocate: Paul’s comments on federal coal mine regulations ‘idiotic’

August 02, 2010 | | Comments 46
Democrat Jack Conway, left, and Republican Rand Paul are running for U.S. Senate in Kentucky.

Democrat Jack Conway, left, and Republican Rand Paul are running for U.S. Senate in Kentucky.

By Bill Estep and Jack Brammer –

FRANKFORT — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul is coming under attack from union coal miners and a prominent mine safety expert for questioning the federal regulation of mining in a national magazine.

The comments attributed to Paul in Details, a monthly magazine published by Condé Nast Publications, reportedly came from a public appearance Paul made prior to the May 18 GOP primary election at the Harlan Center in Harlan County.

“Is there a certain amount of accidents and unfortunate things that do happen, no matter what the regulations are?” Paul said in response to a question about a West Virginia mine explosion in April that killed 29 workers.

“The bottom line is I’m not an expert, so don’t give me the power in Washington to be making rules. You live here, and you have to work in the mines.

“You’d try to make good rules to protect your people here. If you don’t I’m thinking that no one will apply for those jobs.”

Paul’s campaign blasted the Details profile and follow-up stories about the profile that appeared on Web sites operated by The Washington Post and The Hill.

“This is sloppy reporting on more sloppy reporting,” Paul spokesman Ryan Hogan said in a statement. “Dr. Paul has been clear that he favors more local control rather than ham-fisted, one-size-fits-all dictates from Washington. Insinuating Washington bureaucrats are the only solution to problems is insulting to Kentucky.”

Still, Paul believes “punishment must be netted out” if mine safety laws were broken in the West Virginia explosion, Hogan said.

The campaign of Paul’s Democratic opponent, Jack Conway, had no immediate comment.
Members of United Mine Workers from Kentucky have scheduled a news conference via phone Tuesday to take Paul to task for the remarks.

Tony Oppegard, a Lexington attorney who is a mine-safety advocate, called Paul’s statement “idiotic.”

He said it shows a lack of understanding of Eastern Kentucky, the region’s economy and of the history of underground coal mining in the region, where for generations coal operators strongly opposed efforts by workers to form unions. In Harlan County, deadly battles over union organizing helped earned the county the nickname “Bloody Harlan.”

Working conditions in underground mines are dangerous enough with federal and state rules, Oppegard said. If the industry were unregulated by government, “there would be a bloodbath,” he said.

Paul is misinformed when he says no one would take jobs in mines that weren’t safe, Oppegard said. Miners would take jobs even in unsafe mines because they need work, he said.

“There’s no other job opportunities,” Oppegard said.

Oppegard also said U.S. senators work on all kinds of legislation on which they are not experts. “What does he think senators do?”

In response to the April mine explosion in West Virginia, Democrats in the U.S. House and Senate have introduced legislation to better control mining companies that violate work-safety rules.

Paul also reportedly said in the magazine profile that the controversial mining practice of mountaintop removal should be called something else.

“I think they should name it something better,” he said. “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. And I’ve seen the reclaimed lands. One of them is 800 acres with a sports complex on it, elk roaming, covered in grass.”

He said most people “would say the land is of enhanced value, because now you can build on it.”

Filed Under: ElectionsFederal GovernmentJack ConwayRand PaulUS Senate Race

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  1. Jimmy says:

    Rand Paul…say something idiotic???? Say it ain’t so!

    OK, here’s my question for him…if you tell a group of coal operators in Harlan County that since they know the mines best, they should make the rules or else people won’t apply if they don’t think it’s safe…let me tell you something Mr. Paul…obviously you’ve never been in a position to do something you don’t want to do in order to feed your family. When you’re put in that situation, you will do whatever job is available, no matter whether it is safe or not. That’s always been the biggest benefit to mining operators in EKy, is that the area is so poor, so depressed, that there will never be a shortage of people willing to die to get 15 or 20 dollars an hour, safe or not. Now Paul is suggesting that what little bit of safety regulations that they DO have be taken away, because we all know that if it’s up to the operators, NOT ONE DIME would be spent on safety equipment. How do you think Black Lung came into existence? Mining companies were advised to use respirators, but because they cost so much, they refused. Then when the claims came rolling in, the Feds forced them to use respirators. That’s how corporate America works. They only do what they are forced to do, otherwise they keep it all for profit.

  2. bennielen says:

    Randall Paul is idiotic!! Therefore he should have no trouble getting elected, if our last two senators are an example.

  3. Barry Soetoro says:


    I saw the latest circulation numbers, you better hope basketball season gets here asap before you drive away every conservative.

  4. Stateboy says:

    With all th estupid things he keeps saying, how is it that his poll numbers are so high? Doesn’t anyone pay attention to what he says?

  5. Mortimer says:

    Does this man have any idea what it is like to scrap for a living. Ever thing he says is ignorant drivel, totally not revelant to real life situations.

  6. Tommy Caudill says:

    So, I take it you don’t think they should print what he says in his own words. It’s not like people just make this stuff up, it comes from his own lips. If he can’t take what he says himself; how does he expect to govern?

  7. Tommy Caudill says:


    So, I take it you don’t think they should print what he says in his own words. It’s not like people just make this stuff up, it comes from his own lips. If he can’t take what he says himself; how does he expect to govern?

    Can you imagine if we did what he wants; deregulate everyone. The businesses would run over their workers and they would have no rights to fight back with. Would you want you, your spouse or your child to be discriminated against or made to do something they had aq 50% chance of not surviving? That’s exactly what would happen in Dr. Paul’s world.

  8. Threelinks1 says:

    The thing that makes you guys crazy is that Rand says what most people think. The truth is, you can’t find people to work in mines these days that can do the job. It has always been the position of lefties and union organizers that the people had no place else to go. They do, and it is straight to the Oxycontin.

    You all don’t know anything about Eastern KY! Rand Paul would do much better for us than Conway.

  9. nofirstam says:

    “[W]e’re not talking about Mt. Everest. We’re talking about these little knobby hills that are everywhere out here.” Knobby little hills??!!!? They’re everywhere OUT HERE?!!!? Just who is this Flaterlander joker? Out here? Where does he think he’s from if he’s asking for KY votes? Even more important, who does he think he is, calling our mountains ‘knobby little hills’? Go back to Texas. Any Kentuckian who would vote for this kook is as big a fool as he is. Wait. I take that back. Ain’t many out there as big a fool as this idiot. Come on, coal-mining families, can you really vote for this guy?

  10. Tommy Caudill says:


    For you to say we don’t know anything about Eastern Ky is just wrong. My father worked in the mines when he was 15 with my grandfather and he’s told me stories about being in mines laying on his back and his nose rubbing the roof of the mine in Johnson County.

    He’s told me a million times if the unions and democrats had never fought for safer mining conditions and black lung my uncles probably would have died in the mines and their spouses and children would have never gotten the pension they deserved.

    I see you’re just like Dr. Paul and don’t think about what you’re saying before you say it, even though I’m sure what you say you think’s the truth.

    I say since Dr. Paul doesn’t want us to send him to Washington to make rules to improve our lives we shpuld oblige him with his wish and keep him in Bowling Green collecting from Medicare.

  11. nofirstam says:

    Oops. Flatlander, not Flaterlander. Sorry.

  12. Barry Soetoro says:


    I have no problem with the HL reporting on what Rand says, it’s the one side reporting. Unlike the HL I ran my own Nexis report asking for Rand headlines over the last two months covering only the HL, the results are staggering. All I ask is for fair reporting. Conway has some skeletons in his closet that would make John Edwards blush, why don’t you start with the KU donations.

  13. Deez says:

    @Threelinks1: “You all don’t know anything about Eastern KY! Rand Paul would do much better for us than Conway.”

    Rand Paul would be a disaster for Kentucky. He’s running a national Tea Party fringe wingnut platform. The man is terrifyingly out of touch with what is important to Kentuckians. Every time he opens his mouth, it becomes more and more plain to me.

    BTW…Floyd County, Bull Creek, about a mile from 80/23. Don’t tell me I don’t know anything about Eastern KY.

  14. rick rushing says:

    The Repubics do not need for their candidates to be very smart. How else could you explain, bush, Cheney, Palin, Reagan, Bunning,etc. They do not vote for the candidate…. but for an ideology that to the victors go the spoils…. everybody else is on their own.
    Paul is so out of touch, that only in an almost all white state like Kentucky, would his racists beliefs not disqualify him, but raise his numbers
    You get the government that you deserve…. and in Kentucky we are used to being ruled by corrupt rednecks.

  15. Tommy Caudill says:


    You mean like the president of ICG and other big coal companies who are going to spend milllions on behalf of Dr. Paul targeting Jack Conway, because they’re afraid he would try and protect the workers who work for them.

    According to what I could find on the KU donations, Jack Conway has actually saved the taxpayers $100 million from rate hikes.

    I want to know what Dr. Paul promised Wallstreet at his big fundraiser in New York. At least what Jack Conway does is in the limelight and not behind closed doors with Wallstreet.

    Is he selling our little knolls to Wallstreet so they can make them all flat? I mean when they start taking off the top of Black Mountain they will stop at nothing.

  16. Tommy Caudill says:


    July 30, 2010

    Jack Conway said and I quote;”We are disappointed with today’s announcement by the Public Service Commission (PSC) approving a rate hike for LG&E and KU customers. We are reviewing the PSC’s ruling and determining whether or not to appeal the decision to Franklin Circuit Court. I continue to believe that LG&E and KU should not be asking for rate increases while they are being sold to another company that will reap the benefits of the increases.”

    Does this help you Barry?

  17. Ish says:

    If everyone hates the government so much, why are the haters the first in line when there in a disaster, an injury at work, a retirement, or looking for FDA approved drugs to take. Its amazing. Rand Paul wants no government involvement in anything, yet he does Medicare. What a joke. Practice what you preach.

  18. Big Jay says:

    Rand, you’re still ahead in the polls. Shut up. “Better to be silent and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” People aren’t voting FOR Rand Paul they’re voting against the socialist agenda of Obama and the democrat party. But that resentment will only take Mr Paul so far. I fear for America under Obama but, again, Mr Paul needs to shut up.

  19. The General says:

    Big Jay,

    Do you consider world conservative leaders like Angela Merkle, David Cameron, and Stephen Harper to be socialists?

    All support far more government involvement in health care than Obama.

  20. Big Jay says:

    General – The Brits are pulling back from their NHS. Rationed care is on the way, just like here in America.
    Dang General, you just keep on being wrong.

  21. The General says:

    Yet the Brits have a longer life span and are happier with their health care system than most Americans. I’ll take that system any day.,2933,136990,00.html

  22. Eric says:

    The unions dislike Paul.

    Yet another reason to vote for Rand Paul.

  23. Eric says:

    “With all th estupid things he keeps saying, how is it that his poll numbers are so high? Doesn’t anyone pay attention to what he says?”

    Oh, they’re paying attention. It’s just the media’s smear job sucks a**.

  24. William says:

    This is a silly argument anyway. If you read the article above, it’s seems to me that that Dr. Paul is referring to shifting regulatory control from the federal level to more local control (probably he means state agencies, though it is not perfectly clear). But he never suggest that all regulations should be abolished. Just the locus of those regulations. I think he may have a point that, given the Kentucky state government’s proximity to mining industry, it might be a better government in which to vest regulatory control over mines than is the federal government. You can argue to the contrary, but at least argue with what he is actually saying. It’s amazing how this stuff spins out of control.

  25. Buck Feshear says:

    Perhaps Paul would rather the states regulate mining than the federal government. That’s not such a crazy position.

    When I grow up I want to be Tony Oppegard. Or Richard Beliles. Or Larry Sabato. Or any of a number of these know-nothings who make their living by getting their names in the paper commenting on other people’s remarks.

  26. The General says:

    William or Buck,

    Wouldn’t local regulations create more red tape? If I operated a nationwide business, I would rather than have to follow one Federal standard than fifty different regulations or who knows how many local standards.

    It shows that Rand Paul has no idea what he is talking about. But what do you expect from a guy whose father believes the Christmas Day bomber was a plant by the government.

  27. Gator says:

    Coal mining has always been the largest example of desparity in wealth. The “have’s” verses the “have not’s.” Why do the miner’s always run down the mine operators that give them a job? The answer is tradition, envy, and the idea of self worth. Kentucky needs to praise the companies that give jobs to the uneducated, not tear them down with regulations and left wing dogma.

  28. William says:

    The General,

    This tends to be one of the more sensible things I’ve heard you say, and would be the only criticism I would really voice of Paul’s position on this matter. However, I do think that concern is rather over-stated, given that the vast majority of the underground mining operations in the U.S. are found in KY and WV. Complying with the regulations in those states for the mines (for companies that have mines in both states) really would not be that onerous, and vast differences in those regulations would be unlikely. And I think monitoring would be much more effective by state governments than federal governments in this case. But it’s a plausible criticism.

  29. William says:

    The federal government is what I meant to say…obviously there is only one in this country.

    And you had to throw that conspiracy-theory crap in there, didn’t you?

  30. dhagy says:

    threelinks: Rand Paul might do a lot of things (at least in his/your minds), but he DOES NOT speak for me. He’s dumber than a box of rocks and obviously LOVES the taste of his own foot because he sure does keep in his mouth enough.

  31. Chris says:

    I can’t think of ANY circumstances that would prevent Rand Paul from being the winner in this match up. Learn to live with it folks because it will happen….hehehehe.

  32. Tommy Caudill says:

    Sharron Angle: “Press should ‘ask the questions we want to answer”

    Tea Party at it’s best. Can you imagine the right-wing crying and clawing if the President said this?

  33. serah says:

    Rand Paul is a real Libertarian, 100%. No government envolvement in anything !! Deep down I think that includes sealing our southern border with Mexico. Open borders, would suit him fine.

  34. Big Jay says:

    The General – you’d probably love the Canadian and Swedish systems to the American system as well.
    The General would probably agree with the Swedes about criminal charges against the man for helping himself; democrats and socialists can’t abide a person helping themselves.

  35. William says:


    If you were using a random word generator for that post, then it was amazingly coherent.

    If not, it was idiotic.

  36. The General says:

    William that’s just not true. Pennsylvania mines a lot of coal as well as Illinois. On top of that coal is not the only substance that is mined.

  37. Tommy Caudill says:


    According to this website ( the largest mines are out West.

    1 North Antelope Rochelle Mine/Powder River Coal LLC Surface Wyoming 97,578,499
    2 Black Thunder/Thunder Basin Coal Company LLC Surface Wyoming 88,584,704
    3 Jacobs Ranch Mine/Jacobs Ranch Coal Company Surface Wyoming 42,145,705
    4 Cordero Mine/Cordero Mining Company Surface Wyoming 40,033,283
    5 Antelope Coal Mine/Antelope Coal Company Surface Wyoming 35,777,489
    6 Caballo Mine/Caballo Coal Company Surface Wyoming 31,205,381
    7 Belle Ayr Mine/Foundation Coal West Incorporated Surface Wyoming 28,707,982
    8 Buckskin Mine/Triton Coal Company Surface Wyoming 26,076,355
    9 Eagle Butte Mine/Foundation Coal West Incorporated Surface Wyoming 20,442,963
    10 Rawhide Mine/Caballo Coal Company Surface Wyoming 18,418,546
    11 Spring Creek Coal Company/Spring Creek Coal Company Surface Montana 17,947,506
    12 Freedom Mine/The Coteau Properties Company Surface North Dakota 14,565,631
    13 Rosebud Mine&Crusher/Conveyor/Western Energy Company Surface Montana 13,052,713
    14 Coal Creek Mine/Thunder Basin Coal Company LLC Surface Wyoming 11,453,546
    15 Enlow Fork Mine/Consol Pennsylvania Coal Company Underground Pennsylvania 11,089,475
    16 Bailey Mine/Consol Pennsylvania Coal Company Underground Pennsylvania 9,996,038
    17 McElroy Mine/McElroy Coal Company Underground West Virginia 9,636,827
    18 Navajo Mine/BHP Navajo Coal Company Surface New Mexico 8,905,813
    19 Kayenta Mine/Peabody Western Coal Company Surface Arizona 8,024,973
    20 Foidel Creek Mine/Twentymile Coal Company Underground Colorado 8,004,176
    21 Falkirk Mine/Falkirk Mining Company Surface North Dakota 7,532,993
    22 Cumberland Mine/Cumberland Coal Resources LP Underground Pennsylvania 7,321,030
    23 San Juan Mine 1/San Juan Coal Company Underground New Mexico 7,046,199
    24 Sufco/Canyon Fuel Company LLC Underground Utah 6,946,075
    25 Decker Mine/Decker Coal Company Surface Montana 6,871,671
    26 Century Mine/American Energy Corporation Underground Ohio 6,843,898
    27 Jewett Mine/Texas Westmoreland Coal Co. Surface Texas 6,453,799
    28 Absaloka Mine/Westmoreland Resources Inc. Surface Montana 6,390,699
    29 Emerald Mine No 1/Emerald Coal Resources LP Underground Pennsylvania 6,343,350
    30 Wyodak Mine/Wyodak Resources Development Co. Surface Wyoming 6,015,890
    31 West Elk Mine/Mountain Coal Company, L.L.C. Underground Colorado 5,858,789
    32 Powhatan No. 6 Mine/The Ohio Valley Coal Company Underground Ohio 5,797,596
    33 Robinson Run No 95/Consolidation Coal Company Underground West Virginia 5,627,306
    34 Blacksville No 2/Consolidation Coal Company Underground Pennsylvania 5,584,153
    35 Mach #1 Mine/Mach Mining LLC Underground Illinois 5,503,665
    36 Galatia Mine/The American Coal Company Underground Illinois 5,263,019
    37 Dry Fork Mine/Western Fuels-Wyoming Inc Surface Wyoming 5,261,242
    38 Loveridge No 22/Consolidation Coal Company Underground West Virginia 5,192,742
    39 Twilight MTR Surface Mine/Progress Coal Surface West Virginia 5,167,254
    40 Cardinal/Warrior Coal LLC Underground Kentucky 5,108,496
    41 Beckville Strip/Luminant Mining Co. LLC Surface Texas 5,093,709
    42 Kemmerer Mine/Chevron Mining Inc Surface Wyoming 4,988,841
    43 Colowyo Mine/Colowyo Coal Company L P Surface Colorado 4,914,363
    44 Elk Creek Mine/Oxbow Mining, LLC Underground Colorado 4,902,633
    45 Dotiki Mine/Webster County Coal LLC Underground Kentucky 4,662,442
    46 Oak Hill Strip/Luminant Mining Company LLC Surface Texas 4,655,079
    47 Center Mine/BNI Coal Ltd Surface North Dakota 4,505,263
    48 Mountaineer II Mine/Mingo Logan Coal Company Underground West Virginia 4,187,338
    49 Dugout Canyon Mine/Canyon Fuel Company LLC Underground Utah 4,145,406
    50 South Hallsville No 1 Mine/Sabine Mining Company Surface Texas 4,054,916
    51 Elk Creek Mine/Hopkins County Coal LLC Underground Kentucky 4,033,847

    As you can see Pennsylvania is number 15, so when you say West Virginia and Kentucky have the majority of underground mines in the U.S. you’re way off.

    Out of 22 of the largest underground mines five are in Ky and WV and four of those are in WV. Doesn’t that make you wander; why all the deadly accidents occur mostly in KY and WV? I’ll tell you why, because big coal owns these states and when big coal speaks in these two states people jump to please them even if it means costing miners their lives.

    That’s why we have to change the way this industry does business in our state. We can’t allow them to do whatever they want simply because of who they are.

  38. Tommy Caudill says:


    Why do you think big coal is just itching to run political ads against Jack Conway; because they know he will be standing with the workers and not with big coal. If we don’t stop this industry from breaking the law; how many lives are you willing to sacrifice for their benefit?

    I’ll tell you what I’ll do, I have an old mine here on my farm in Paintsville. If you can go into this mine and stay 12 hours and swing a pick I’ll shut-up and never say another word about mine safety.

  39. Big Jay says:

    Isn’t most of the coal mining out west of the ‘surface mining’ variety? Is there a difference in how dangerous surface mining is compared to underground mining? My knowledge of this is about an inch deep so I’m looking for information.

  40. The General says:

    State Underground Surface Total
    Alabama 12,281 8,330 20,611
    Illinois 27,055 5,863 32,918
    Indiana 12,223 23,670 35,893
    Kentucky 69,474 50,849 120,323
    Eastern 44,143 46,116 90,259
    Western 25,331 4,733 30,064
    Maryland 753 2,107 2,860
    Mississippi – 2,842 2,842
    Ohio 17,053 9,198 26,251
    Pennsylvania 53,318 12,095 65,413
    Bituminous 53,077 10,636 63,713
    Anthracite 241 1,459 1,700
    Tennessee 789 1,544 2,333
    Virginia 15,806 8,907 24,713
    West Virginia 88,369 69,409 157,778
    Total East 297,121 194,814 491,935
    Alaska – 1,477 1,477
    Arizona – 8,025 8,025
    Arkansas 67 2 69
    California – – –
    Colorado 24,370 7,659 32,029
    Iowa 0 – –
    Kansas 229 – 229
    Louisiana – 3,843 3,843
    Missouri – 247 247
    Montana 168 44,617 44,785
    New Mexico 7,046 18,599 25,645
    North Dakota 0 29,627 29,627
    Oklahoma 441 1,023 1,464
    Texas 0 39,017 39,017
    Utah 24,365 – 24,365
    Washington – – –
    Wyoming 3,501 464,143 467,644

  41. The General says:

    Big Jay,there are plenty of horror stories in any health care system. However lets look at average lifespan and satisfaction of health care. You’ll see the US, for the world’s wealthiest nation is failing in health care compared to other nations.

  42. Dave says:

    Yeah… Stupid miners whining about a lack of safety measures that maximize coal executive salaries.

    Just because it kills a few dozen miners every now and again, doesn’t mean we have to actually care about this stuff.

    …And if you believe that bull, you should vote for Rand Paul.

  43. William says:

    I stand corrected on the fact that the majority of coal mining takes place in KY and WV. Those are by far the top two underground coal mining states, with roughly 45% of all U.S. underground coal mining (hence their notoriety in that realm), but I should have mentioned PA in that group as well, and there are several states that have at least some underground coal mining. I was well aware of Wyoming’s mining industry, but the reason you don’t hear much about it is simple–surface mining isn’t nearly as dangerous.

  44. William says:

    I would be more interested to know whether U.S. coal companies tend to have underground coal mines in a lot of states or only in one or two. If it’s the latter (as I suspect), then having to comply with state regulations in 2 or 3 states as opposed to uniform federal regulations may be worth the effort, if the state regulatory agencies (again, closer to the mines in their states than regulators in Washington) would be able to do a better job.

    In truth though, all regulators, state, federal, or local, are subject to “regulatory capture.” And Dr. Paul’s larger point is simply that we cannot prevent all disasters, diseases, tragedies, etc. through an ever-expanding regulatory state. There is a tipping point at which regulation does more harm than good.

  45. Rand Paul is a libertarian ideologue and an idiot in general. As would be anyone who voted for this nutcase.

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