Rand Paul: Congress has no business protecting miners

The House bill, sponsored by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), has already moved out of committee to the floor. The Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), is moving at a much slower pace.

Paul's comments are some indication that the Senate bill has a difficult road ahead, facing opposition even — or perhaps especially — from coal-country lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), with a history of protecting the industry from stricter rules.

Paul had a similar take on the Obama administration's efforts to rein in mountaintop-removal coal mining, a type of strip mining where the tops are blasted off Appalachian peaks to get at the coal seams within. In the process, the soil, rock and other debris are pushed into adjacent streams, often contaminating drinking water with toxic heavy metals, while kicking up coal dust linked to higher rates of respiratory disease in neighboring communities.

"I think they should name it something better," Paul said of mountaintop removal. "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." 

"[Most folks] would say the land is of enhanced value, because now you can build on it," he said, according to Details. "Let's let you decide what to do with your land. Really, it's a private-property issue."