News Releases

Murray-McCain Pipeline Safety Bill Passes Senate

Nov 13 2002

After three years of dogged work, Murray’s bill one step away from becoming law

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – After more than three years of work on pipeline safety legislation, the U.S. Senate tonight passed the Murray-McCain bill, with the House expected to follow suit tomorrow. The bill will then go to the President, who is expected to sign it.

The Senate approval was an enormous personal victory for Sen. Patty Murray who had doggedly pursued the issue since the June 10, 1999 tragedy in Bellingham, Wash.

In January of 2000, Murray introduced the first bill in the Senate to improve pipeline safety, and began building bipartisan support, holding hearings and raising awareness of the issue.

In 2001, the Senate passed Murray's bill, and Congressman Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) introduced companion legislation in the House.

This year, it appeared that the legislation would not pass the House on its own, (notwithstanding Rep. Larsen's efforts) so Murray offered the legislation as an amendment to the Energy Bill, which seemed to have greater congressional support. In March, 2002, her pipeline safety bill was unanimously accepted as an amendment to the Energy Bill.

In July, because Rep. Larsen's significant efforts, the House passed a pipeline safety bill, raising hopes that the legislation could become law.

But with both the Energy Bill and the stand-alone pipeline safety stranded in a House-Senate conference committee, the legislation appeared doomed for another session of Congress.

For the last several days, Sen. Murray argued strenuously with her colleagues to pass the pipeline safety legislation during the lame duck session. As of this morning, it appeared Murray had prevailed, and that the Senate would pass the bill by unanimous consent. But by mid-day, another Senator put a hold on the bill.

Sen. Murray called the Senator to again press for the legislation, and late today he removed his objection. At 7:30 p.m. ET, the Senate passed the measure by Unanimous Consent.

On Thursday, the House is expected to pass the bill, paving the way for this measure to become law. Because of Sen. Murray's tenacity and determination, Congress is poised to finally pass an important new pipeline safety measure.

"This is an important step toward improving our nation's pipeline infrastructure, and avoiding another tragedy like the one in Bellingham in 1999. I am proud to have been involved in the effort to increase the safety of our nation's pipelines," Murray said.

The bill is one of the strongest pipeline safety bills ever passed.

It improves the qualification and training of pipeline personnel. It improves pipeline inspections and prevention practices. It raises the penalties for safety violators. It increases the States' ability to expand their safety activities. It invests in new technology to improve pipeline safety. It increases funding to improve pipeline safety. And it recognizes State citizen advisory committees.