As the 106th Congress neared an end, bipartisan discussions were going on to see if a pipeline-safety bill could be passed before lawmakers left town. But the effort faces an uphill road. On Oct, 10, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bud Shuster (R-Pa.) pronounced pipeline legislation dead after the House failed to approve a safety bill that the Senate had passed on Sept. 7.
Nevertheless, shortly after the House vote, White House, Senate and House aides began to meet in a last-ditch try to get a pipeline bill passed, maybe as part of an end-of-session spending bill, Capitol Hill sources say. Its gotten a lot harder but its not dead yet, says a spokesman for Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who has pushed for a bill for months. Spurring Murray is a 1999 pipeline accident in her state that killed three people. In August, a second pipeline accident, this one in New Mexico, claimed 12 lives.
In the House, two leading Democrats led the fight against accepting the Senate bill. Michigans John Dingell, ranking minority member on the Commerce Committee, and Minnesotas James Oberstar, the top Democrat on the transportation committee, argued that the Senate version wasnt tough enough on pipeline operators. They proposed an alternative bill. Dingell and Oberstar have support from environmentalists and labor unions.
Little time remains in the congressional session. Adjournment is expected sometime the week of Oct. 22.