WASHINGTON - A senator who opposes federal regulation on philosophical grounds is single-handedly blocking legislation that would strengthen safety rules for oil and gas pipelines, a bill that even the pipeline industry and companies in his own state support.
Republican Senator Rand Paul’s opposition to the bill has not wavered even after a gas pipeline rupture last week shook people awake in three counties in his home state of Kentucky.
Paul, a Tea Party ally who shares with his father, Representative Ron Paul of Texas, a desire to shrink the role of the federal government, won’t discuss his role in blocking the bill.
But industry lobbyists, safety advocates, and Senate aides said he is the only senator who is refusing to agree to procedures that would permit swift passage of the measure.
A deadly gas pipeline explosion near San Francisco last year - along with other recent gas explosions and oil pipeline spills - has created consensus in Congress, as well as in the industry, that there are gaps in federal safety regulations.
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved the bill in May without opposition.