Senate approves pipeline safety bill

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 17, 2011 8:23 PM
Senate approves pipeline safety bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Monday unanimously approved a popular pipeline safety bill after Sen. Ron Paul dropped a hold on the measure that could quickly become law because similar legislation in the House also has wide support.

Paul, a Republican, still has an amendment on the measure to reflect recommendations from a National Transportation Safety Board report on the deadly 2010 natural gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, California, the senator's spokeswoman said.

Paul initially objected to the legislation because he said the bill had been written before a report on the accident had been completed.

"The government was trying to pretend it fixed a problem that it had not even properly diagnosed. As a physician and a citizen this bothered me. And they were trying to do it with no time for consideration," Paul said in a statement.

In order to save time in the legislative schedule, Senate leaders wanted to move the bill quickly in a procedure in which not everyone in the chamber would have to be present for it to passed. But Paul, who had been the lone opponent to the bill, had wanted to have more debate on the measure.

The bill in the Senate would authorize funding for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which is part of the U.S. Transportation Department.

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A similar bill was passed by a panel in the House of Representatives on September 21. That bill, which still has to be voted on in the full House, seeks to make companies more accountable for leaks by raising fines for safety violations.

It would also require automatic or remote-controlled shut-off valves to prevent oil spills and natural gas explosions, require faster notification to the government of pipeline accidents and leaks and hire more federal pipeline inspectors.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer, Bernard Orr)