MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

January 30, 2014

State congressional delegation reacts to no mention of Keystone project

TULSA — Members of Oklahoma’s all-Republican congressional delegation are upset President Barack Obama didn’t mention the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project in his State of the Union speech earlier this week.

TransCanada’s pipeline would run from western Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast and employ about 9,000 workers to build it. Company spokesman Shawn Howard estimates construction could take about two years, weather permitting. Howard did not have an estimate of how many permanent jobs the project would create.

The U.S. State Department is conducting an environmental review of the proposed project — likely the reason Obama didn’t mention it in his address to Congress — and it’s unclear when the federal agency will issue its evaluation. The president and his advisers will have three months after that to determine whether the project is in the national interest.

Obama refused to issue a permit for part of the project in 2012 amid concerns about its potential impact on an aquifer in Nebraska. TransCanada, however, received clearance to build the southern leg of the pipeline, which runs between Cushing and the Gulf Coast and began shipping oil on Jan. 22.

Obama backed the southern leg of the project during a visit to a pipeyard near Cushing in 2012, describing the city as a “bottleneck” between producers and refineries along the Texas coast. Obama said then that increased oil and gas production was part of his domestic energy policy.

Since then, Republicans who want Keystone XL to go forward have claimed Obama could with the stroke of a pen help achieve energy independence and create thousands of jobs — a claim that has been disputed by the project’s critics.

U.S. Rep. James Lankford said the absence of the Keystone project in Obama’s speech was “conspicuous,” especially since the president did talk about expediting permits and streamlining bureaucracy dealing with energy projects.

“The clearest form of bureaucratic mess is that pipeline has been almost 2,000 days in the making, just for a permit that happens to be sitting on his desk,” Lankford said in a statement to The Associated Press this week.

Sen. Jim Inhofe said Keystone wasn’t mentioned during the speech because the president’s “environmental base is keeping him anchored to the losing side of this argument.”

“The southern leg of the pipeline has been constructed, starting in the heart of Cushing, Okla., and is already moving to the market vast amounts of resources that are being produced in our country’s current energy boom,” Inhofe said in a statement. “Like Americans across the country, I call on the president to stop blocking construction of the northern leg of the Keystone pipeline.”

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