Pipeline Safety Bill Clears Congress
Watered-down bill disappoints safety advocates
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 14, 2011 4:55 AM CST
A natural gas line lies broken on a San Bruno, Calif., road on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010, after a massive explosion that killed eight people.    (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

(Newser) – Add another item to the list of things Congress can actually agree on: pipeline safety. A bill to make America's 2.3 million miles of pipelines safer has cleared the House and Senate with surprising speed and is headed for President Obama's desk, reports the Los Angeles Times. The legislation doubles the maximum fine for safety violations to $2 million and introduces penalties for obstructing safety investigators.

Communities near pipelines "can rest a little easier knowing that Congress has implemented tougher safety rules," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller. Safety advocates, however, complain that the watered-down bill fails to implement recommendations made after a gas pipeline explosion killed eight people near San Francisco last year. The bill requires automatic shut-off valves on new or replaced pipelines "where economically, technically, and operationally feasible," but doesn't require such valves on existing pipelines in populated areas.