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A pipeline safety bill inspired in part by last year's explosion of an underground line in San Bruno gets another push today, hot on the heels of Senate approval. Politically, this apparent horse-after-cart timing deserves a look.

The hearing today by a panel of the Senate Commerce Committee was scheduled to help build momentum for the pipeline safety bill, backed strongly by Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. Feinstein is the lead-off witness, in a hearing that also features the chair of the National Transportation Safety Board and others.

Monday night, on the eve of the hearing, Republican Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., dropped his one-man opposition to the bill. He secured an amendment in exchange; perhaps not coincidentally, he also avoided getting a black eye today.
The bill is supposed to improve safety on the nation's 2.5 million miles of oil-and-gas pipelines. It increases penalties for violations, requires automatic shut-off valves on new pipelines and makes other changes; over five years, pipeline operators will be paying $365 million in fees.



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