Lame-duck Deal Possible on Pipeline Safety Measure

Lawmakers believe they can reach a final House-Senate agreement on bipartisan pipeline safety legislation in the lame-duck session of Congress, the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee said today.

Legislation before the committee would expand oversight of low-stress pipelines -- such as the lines that have shaken operations at BP's Prudhoe Bay field -- that are often exempt from federal regulation.

A similar bill has already been approved in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The bills would generally subject these lines to the integrity management rules that now govern high-stress lines.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has also approved a pipeline safety reauthorization bill. It would not regulate low-stress lines as broadly as the Senate bill or the House Energy and Commerce Committee bill.

"We have had contact with the House, and the House is willing to work toward ... having a bill that can pass in the first week of December," said Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), the committee chairman.

Said Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), the panel's ranking member: "The House has similar legislation. Time is of the essence. We hope to get this through right away." The senators spoke today during a hearing on reauthorizing the pipeline safety law. Stevens said the committee could clear the bill as soon as this afternoon.

The broad legislation also addresses other issues, such as strengthening state programs to prevent construction-related accidents to natural gas distribution lines.

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