The Oklahoman: In Oklahoma, Obama pledges support for Cushing-to-Texas portion of pipeline

The Oklahoman
By: Adam Wilmoth
March 22, 2012

RIPLEY — President Barack Obama on Thursday pledged his full support behind the Keystone Gulf Pipeline from Cushing to the Gulf Coast and said he will review the more controversial northern leg of the Keystone XL pipe that would run from Canada to Cushing.

“Today I'm directing my administration to cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles, and make this project a priority, to go ahead and get it done,” the president said before about 150 hand-selected guests at the TransCanada pipe yard northwest of Cushing.

As for the northern line, Obama said the problem is that Nebraska regulators have raised concerns about the proposed route over an important aquifer.

“So to be extra careful that the construction of the pipeline in an area like that wouldn't put the health and the safety of the American people at risk, our experts said that we needed a certain amount of time to review the project,” Obama said.

Obama said he has not outright rejected the project. Instead, he asked TransCanada to continue working with Nebraska regulars to find a more acceptable route.

“The northern portion of it we're going to have to review properly to make sure that the health and safety of the American people are protected,” Obama said. “That's common sense.”The speech was part of a four-state energy tour designed to promote the Obama administration's “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, which the president has said looks to include both traditional and renewable energy sources in the country's broader energy policy.

The speech drew strong praise from the delegation in attendance.

“It was a great day for Oklahoma and a great day for this country,” said Angela Monson, chairwoman of the Oklahoma City School Board. “The president really talked about his support of oil production and the value of oil production in Oklahoma and across the country. He also made it clear that we cannot provide all the energy needs for this country when we use those sources that are not renewable. It was a great, well-balanced presentation about the utilization of energy and the need to diversify the production of energy, as well, in this country.”

Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, said the president's message is important to the state and its economic future.

To hear the commitment on the Keystone pipeline going south and the hope that we will soon have something going north is very positive,” he said. “We also heard about wind energy. Anything we can do to expand the energy policy is good for Oklahomans.”

The state's Republican leaders, however, had a different reaction.

Gov. Mary Fallin praised the president for what he said to support domestic oil production. But she said the administration's policies over the past three years have not supported that message.

“The fact of the matter is President Barack Obama's rhetoric is matched with a policy record that is aggressively anti-energy and continues to stifle economic growth in Oklahoma and throughout the nation,” Fallin said in a statement Thursday. “The president urgently needs to re-examine his policies, not deliver more speeches taking credit for the accomplishments of others.”

U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, who represents Cushing, praised the president for visiting the state and for his discussion on domestic energy. But he was not impressed with the content of Obama's message.

“The president announced that he will expedite permits to build a portion of the Keystone XL Pipeline from Cushing to the Texas Gulf Coast,” Lucas said. “While this sounds encouraging, his approval of this leg of the project is not required. In fact, the Army Corps of Engineers hands out around 90,000 similar permits each year. The president is trying to take credit for a project he has actually rejected twice, and I believe his trip is nothing more than a campaign stop.”

‘A lot of tangible good' in Obama's remarks

Former state Treasurer Scott Meacham, however, said the president's endorsement of the southern line will help the construction project begin more quickly.

“I think obviously there are things this administration can do to make things move more quickly,” said Meacham, who was in attendance for the speech. “One of the holdups now is that they have to go through some Army Corps of Engineers property, and that is going slowly. The president has the ability to expedite that. I think there's a lot of tangible good in what the president did today.”