March 20th, 2012
05:00 PM ET
President Barack Obama plans to announce in Cushing, Oklahoma, on Thursday that his administration will expedite the permit for the southern half of the Keystone XL pipeline, a source familiar with the president's announcement told CNN.
In January, the Obama administration denied a permit for the 1,700-mile-long Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would stretch from Canada's tar sands development to the U.S. Gulf Coast. That decision was met by persistent Republican criticism that the president has not been doing everything possible to create jobs and combat high gas prices.
Late last month, TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL Pipeline, announced it would move forward with the process to build the southern half of the pipeline, which would begin in Cushing - the president's third stop on his two-day energy tour. The White House praised the move.
Senior administration officials would not confirm the president's plan to unveil the effort to cut red tape for the project, though one senior administration official acknowledged the need to deal with the glut of oil in Cushing, where oil from the Midwest hits a bottleneck as it is transported to the Gulf of Mexico.
"On Thursday, the president will reiterate his administration's commitment to expediting the construction of a pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma, to the Gulf of Mexico, relieving a bottleneck of oil and bringing domestic resources to market," a White House official said.
Such an announcement would no doubt be met with opposition from environmentalists, many of whom spent weeks protesting the Keystone XL project outside the White House late last fall into the early winter, before the administration announced its objection to the pipeline.
A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner balked at the idea that President Obama could claim credit for speeding up the approval process of the southern segment of the pipeline. “This is like a governor personally issuing a fishing license,” Brendan Buck said. “There is only a minor, routine permit needed for this leg of the project. Only a desperate administration would inject the President of the United States into this trivial matter. The President’s attempt to take credit for a pipeline he blocked and personally lobbied Congress against is staggering in its dis-ingenuousness. This portion of the pipeline is being built in spite of the President, not because of him.”