Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Senator blocks fast action on pipeline safety bill by refusing to allow passage without debate

UPDATE, Oct. 19: Paul dropped his hold on the bill after getting agreement to "an amendment that would commit the government to requiring pressure tests or something equally effective on older lines," Jaxon Van Derbeken of the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is singlehandedly blocking quick passage of legislation to improve safety of the 2.5 million miles of oil, gas and hazardous waste pipelines that crisscross the country. Democrats want to expedite the bill so they can work on job creation. Paul says more time should be given to debate new rules in the bill. Since expedited passage requires unanimous consent, Paul's stance is preventing the bill from moving. (AP photo)

The New York Times reported recently that pipeline regulators give short shrift to rural areas. Jim Carroll, Washington correspondent for The Courier-Journal of Louisville, reports the reauthorization bill includes new safety measures prompted by several pipeline accidents, like one in San Bruno, Calif., last year that killed eight people. About 40 pipeline accidents have occurred every year since 2006, causing injuries and fatalities. Paul says the new bill "puts in place new mandates," "hires new bureaucrats" and "grandfathers in the very pipelines that have had recent problems." He said the bill will not truly address issues that hinder pipeline safety. Carroll reports it's not the first time Paul has slowed legislation by himself; he held up provision extensions in the Patriot Act earlier this year and on Monday, blocked a bill that would provide millions in benefits to elderly and disabled refugees.

The bill was unanimously approved by a Senate committee and has the support of three national oil and gas associations, and some associations in Kentucky, Paul's home state. While Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky supports Paul's exercise of his right to request debate, several senators are pressing Paul to stop blocking the bill. Paul told Carroll the Democrats are impeding the bill's progress because they won't allow an open discussion and a vote, even though they would likely get more than the 60-vote majority to move the bill out of the Senate. (Read more)

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