House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bud Shuster (R-Pa.) says legislation to make pipelines safer is dead for this year. Shuster had attempted to have the House approve a safety bill passed on Sept. 7 by the Senate. But on Oct. 10, the measure failed to gain the two-thirds majority necessary for approval under House rules.

The 106th Congress is hurrying to complete its work for the year within the next several days.

Two senior House Democrats led the fight against the bill--Michigan's John Dingell, the ranking minority member on the Commerce Committee, and Minnesota's James Oberstar, the top Democrat on the transportation panel. They argued that the Senate version wasn't tough enough on pipeline operators and had proposed their own version. Dingell and Oberstar had support from labor unions and environmental groups.

Shuster said, "We had an opportunity to save lives today but instead we chose to play politics....The latest pipeline tragedy is that partisanship killed the only pipeline safety bill Congress will consider this year."

In the Senate, lawmakers had cited two fatal pipeline accidents as an impetus for legislation. They were a 1999 explosion in Washington state that killed three people and an Aug. 19 gas pipeline explosion in New Mexico that killed 12.