(CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama took credit for “directing” his administration to move on the southern half of the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline, a portion the federal government has little involvement in and which will not connect to the northern end of the pipeline unless the administration gives the okay, which it has twice refused to do.
Republicans in Congress were quick to point out that the portion the president talked about does not require federal approval, while Obama has blocked the portion that does.
The president traveled to Cushing, Okla., on Thursday as part of his energy tour, touting what he called an “all of the above” energy policy, although he blocked the expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline – to run oil from Canada down through the United States to the Gulf Coast – in January and which would have created at least 20,000 American jobs.
The White House has confirmed that Obama lobbied Senate Democrats to vote against legislation to expedite the pipeline.
However, speaking in an oil-producing state, Obama explained that he was not opposed to the pipeline.
“Now, right now, a company called TransCanada has applied to build a new pipeline to speed more oil from Cushing to state-of-the-art refineries down on the Gulf Coast,” Obama said. “And 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.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) criticized Obama for claiming to take action on something he has little say over.
“Up here in Canada, and in North Dakota, we’ve got all this oil, and the president’s down here in Oklahoma taking credit for a part of the pipeline that’s going to go through the normal process,” Boehner said during a Capitol Hill press conference. “It’s already gotten its approvals. And this idea that the president is going to expedite this will have no impact on the construction of this pipeline.”
Boehner went on to explain, “So the president can take credit for having nothing to do with the bottom half of this pipeline, and the fact is there’s only one permit that requires his approval because it crosses our national boundaries, and that’s the Keystone decision on the upper half of this.”
During his Oklahoma speech, Obama went onto explain the issue has been politicized.
“The original route from Canada into the United States was planned through an area in Nebraska that supplies some drinking water for nearly 2 million Americans, and irrigation for a good portion of America's croplands and Nebraskans of all political stripes – including the Republican governor there – raised some concerns about the safety and wisdom of that route,” Obama said.
“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,” he added.
He said it was unfortunate that Congress tried to get involved.
“So what we’ve said to the company is, we’re happy to review future permits, and today, we’re making this new pipeline from Cushing to the Gulf a priority,” Obama said. “So the southern leg of it we're making a priority, and we're going to go ahead and get that done. 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. That’s common sense.”
As envisioned by TransCanada, the Keystone XL oil pipeline would bring Canadian oil from Hardisty, Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries in Texas.
To get the oil moving, TransCanada wants to build two new sections of pipeline – one, from Alberta, Canada to Nebraska – and the second section, from Cushing, Okla., to Port Arthur and Houston, Texas. An existing section of pipeline already runs from Nebraska to Oklahoma.
The Obama State Department halted the portion of the pipeline connecting Canada to the United States. However, the Oklahoma-to-Texas section of the pipeline requires permits from the states, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.) said earlier on Fox News.
The average price for regular unleaded gasoline Thursday was $3.88, according to AAA.
Boehner said the president has not done enough to lower the price at the pump for Americans.
“It’s not just oil that’s up in Canada. Right now, this year, North Dakota will become the second largest oil-producing state in our country,” Boehner said. “There are three, one-hundred tank trains every day that come out of North Dakota and have to go all the way to the Gulf because of the lack of this pipeline, and so it’s Canadian oil. It’s North Dakota oil that needs to get down to our refineries in the Gulf.”