A major interstate natural gas pipeline association is pressing Tea Party conservative Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to lift his procedural hold on pipeline safety re-authorization legislation so the bill can come to the Senate floor for a vote.

“We continue to talk to him [Paul] and other members of Congress. But I wouldn’t say that we’re trying to pressure him [to lift the hold]. We’re working to get this bill passed,” said Cathy Landry, a spokeswoman for the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA). “The door is open and a communication line has been established” with Paul and his staff.

Paul met with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Wednesday (see Daily GPI, Oct. 6). Afterward he called on the Senate to incorporate recommendations from the NTSB’s probe of last year’s San Bruno, CA, pipeline explosion into its pipeline safety legislation, including removing a provision in the bill that would grandfather older pipelines from having to install certain safety devices.

Paul was particularly critical of a provision in the bill (S. 275) that grandfathers vintage pipelines from having to install automatic or remote controlled shutoff valves to minimize damage from a pipeline rupture. Moreover, he said the Senate bill was “written months before the NTSB report was released” in September (see Daily GPI, Sept. 27).

California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer Tuesday publicly urged Paul to release his hold. “Your statement that ‘absolutely nothing in the current bill would have prevented the recent pipeline problems’ is simply not true,” the two Democrats wrote in a letter to Paul. “On the contrary, this bill directly addresses the factors that contributed to eight deaths in [a pipeline] explosion in San Bruno” in September 2010, they said (see Daily GPI, Sept. 13, 2010).

The Senate pipe safety bill, which was voted out of the Senate Commerce Committee in May, has been awaiting floor action since early this summer (see Daily GPI, May 6). In the meantime the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee have reported out their pipe safety bills (see Daily GPI, Sept. 22; Sept. 9).

Pipeline safety legislation has widespread support in both the Senate and House and was seen as on track to be voted out by Congress this year. Because the House and Senate pipeline safety bills are nearly identical on critical issues and enjoy strong bipartisan support, the odds of the legislation clearing Congress this year were good, said INGAA officials last month (see Daily GPI, Sept. 13). But that was before Paul moved to block the bill.

If the measure stays stuck in the Senate, the House could move on the legislation first, giving the upper chamber time to put pressure on Paul to lift his hold. The two House committees are expected to reach a compromise bill in the next few weeks.

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