Legislators ask pipeline officials about reforms

By the Associated Press | July 15, 2011 | 1:29 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — Legislators questioned federal officials about their plans to tighten the country's pipeline safety rules in the wake of the Exxon Mobil spill in Montana, asking whether the lead safety agency had been overly cozy with the energy industry.

The head of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration told the congressional hearing Friday that the agency's highest concern is public safety.

Administrator Cynthia Quarterman is seeking greater authority to oversee the nation's energy pipelines.

She says it will likely be months before investigators know what caused the oil pipeline to rupture near Billings, Mont., on July 1, spilling about 1,000 barrels of crude into the Yellowstone River.

ExxonMobil Pipeline Co.'s president also had been scheduled to testify, but his testimony was postponed for a second hearing next Thursday.