WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will announce in Oklahoma on Thursday that he is directing federal agencies to make the Cushing-to-Texas pipeline a top priority under a new executive order aimed at streamlining permits for construction projects, White House officials said Wednesday.
The president's announcement is expected to be made at a pipe yard near Cushing owned by TransCanada, which wants to build a pipeline from the oil storage hub there to the Texas Gulf Coast to relieve the excess of crude built up from increased domestic production.
“The goal here is to create jobs as quickly as possible,” a White House official told reporters.
Obama announced in his State of the Union speech in January that he would sign an executive order “clearing away the red tape that slows down too many construction projects.”
The president is expected to issue that order on Thursday and specifically direct federal agencies “to expedite the Cushing Pipeline and other pipelines that relieve bottlenecks as the top priority” of the new order.
How much that will speed up the beginning of construction of the pipeline from Cushing to the Texas Gulf Coast wasn't clear. In fact, there seemed to be some confusion about whether TransCanada already had applied for permits.
The White House said Wednesday the company had not applied for any permits, but a TransCanada spokesman said Tuesday and Wednesday the company was working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to approve the project and hoped to begin construction in the second quarter of this year.
The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee claimed Wednesday that the only issues outstanding for the Cushing-to-Texas pipeline were a Clean Water Act permit to be issued by the Army Corps of Engineers and a biological opinion from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Republican-controlled committee said those approvals “should have been granted long ago, but for the Obama administration's continued foot dragging, delaying approval of the project that has been under review for more than three years. For the president to claim credit for speeding up a process that his team delayed is misleading and purely political theater.”
Obama touts solar energy
The Cushing-to-Gulf Coast pipeline was one segment of the Keystone XL project proposed by TransCanada to carry crude from Canada, Montana and North Dakota to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast.
The U.S. State Department in January rejected a cross-border permit for the pipeline because a route through Nebraska had not been determined. However, the company has been working with Nebraska officials and is expected to reapply in the next few weeks for a permit for the segment from Canada to Steele City, Neb.