Thursday, December 22, 2011

House, Senate pass wrong pipeline safety bill


WASHINGTON, D.C. - It was a celebrated, bipartisan achievement: Congress sent the president a bill to address pipeline safety issues - a sign that lawmakers could get beyond the bitter partisanship that has slowed down nearly everything in this divided Congress.

And still they managed to at least temporarily screw things up.

Due to human error, the House on Dec. 12 and Senate on Dec. 13 both passed a pipeline safety bill all right, but an earlier, stronger version of the bill - not the final watered-down bipartisan, bicameral compromise.

"There was a House clerical error and we expect the correcting resolution to be approved in the House and Senate without issue," said Caley Gray, a spokesman for Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who was a lead author of Senate pipeline safety legislation this year. The Senate was the one that discovered the error, Gray added.

The House by unanimous consent late Dec. 14 agreed to the version they meant to approve on Dec. 12; the Senate was expected to quickly follow suit.

The corrected bill would double to $2 million the maximum fine for safety violations, increase the number of pipeline inspectors and require automatic shutoff valves on new or replaced pipelines, but only "where economically, technically and operationally feasible." (Source: Darren Goode,  Politico Pro, Dec. 14, 2011) 

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