A federal pipeline safety bill is back on track, after the Senate’s lone opponent not only dropped his objection, but closed a loophole in the measure.
Sen. Rand Paul, a Tea Party Republican from Kentucky, single-handedly stalled action last month on the Pipeline Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2011 (S. 275), which is supported by the gas and oil industry.
At the time, a spokeswoman for Paul said he opposed the bill “on philosophical grounds,” because he opposes all government regulation.
|Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) dropped his objection and added an 11th-hour amendment to the bill.|
Paul had placed a “procedural hold” on the bill, which was being considered under a fast-track process designed for non-controversial legislation. The measure had the approval of the other 99 senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who also represents Kentucky.
Last week, however, Paul abruptly dropped his objection and added an amendment that closes a loophole in the bill. The measure then sailed through the Senate with unanimous approval.
Paul now says that he held up the bill to add an amendment that provides for testing “to confirm the material strength of previously untested natural gas transmission pipelines located in certain areas, and to update fiscal year references.”
The Senate unanimously accepted the amendment, and then passed the bill, on Oct. 17—”proving that my actions have enriched this legislation,” Paul said in a statement.
The bill strengthens the federal government’s regulatory enforcement powers, calls for automatic shutoff valves for new pipelines and, with Paul’s amendment, ends an exemption from safety inspections for older natural-gas pipelines.
|Testing of older pipelines, such as the one that ruptured in San Bruno, CA, would be required by the Senate version of the pipeline safety bill.|
The amendment commits the government to requiring pressure tests or something equally effective on older lines—testing that experts say would have revealed flaws in the San Bruno, CA, pipeline that catastrophically ruptured in September 2010.
“The government was trying to pretend it fixed a problem that it had not even properly diagnosed,” Paul said in a statement.
The Senate bill must still be reconciled with a similar measure, the Pipeline Infrastructure and Community Protection Act of 2011 (H.R. 2937), which is now before the House.