There has been movement in Congress on extending the federal pipeline safety program, but final action may not come in the lame-duck session. Bills that the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed and Senate Commerce Committee leaders introduced Sept. 27 would extend federal authority to all low-stress pipelines, including the type operated by BP Alaska that had failures this year. The bills go further than a proposed Transportation Dept. rule.

The National Utility Contractors Association likes the version passed by the House panel, partly because it excludes enforcement proposals it terms "unfair" to excavators. The Senate bill adds civil enforcement over excavators and others responsible for third-party damage to pipelines.