Just one U.S. senator is blocking a bill that would strengthen safety rules for oil and gas pipelines. The senator isn’t opposed to any particular part of the bill; he simply doesn’t like any additional federal regulation at all.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has placed a hold on the bill, which makes it more difficult for the Senate to consider it.
The measure would authorize more federal safety inspectors, and pipeline companies would have to confirm that their records on how much pressure their pipelines can tolerate are accurate.
The pressure issue is key. The National Transportation Safety Board just released the results of its investigation into the Sept. 9, 2010, gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people, injured dozens more, and destroyed or damaged more than 100 homes in San Bruno, CA.
The report says Pacific Gas & Electric Co. records incorrectly described the section of pipe that ruptured as being seamless rather than welded. That led the company to place a maximum gas pressure limit on the line that was too high for it to withstand.
Paul’s action comes despite sound support for the bill among industry and in his home state.
The bill has support from major trade associations, including the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, the American Gas Association and the Association of Oil Pipelines. The Pipeline Safety Trust also supports it.
The president of Southern Star Central Gas Pipeline of Owensboro, KY, has also voiced his support for the bill and spoke to Paul about it.
Industry actually wants Congress to pass the bill. Why? If it doesn’t, regulators within the Obama administration will be free to create new pipeline safety regulations as they want to.
And up to this point, it looked like Congress was on a path to approve the measure. Similar bills were approved by committees in the Senate and House without a single no vote.
Paul is considered a key leader in the Tea Party movement that supports less federal regulation for businesses. Despite his hold on the bill, so far he hasn’t been willing to discuss the situation with the media.
Do you think there should be an absolute freeze on all new safety regulations because of the struggling economy? What do you think about Paul’s position on this matter? Let us know in the comments below.