Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt last week joined with attorneys general from 20 other states in support of the Keystone XL pipeline.
The 21 chief state lawyers signed a letter led by North Dakota's Wayne Stenehjem, asking U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to recommend President Barack Obama approve the permit needed to build the northern leg of the pipeline that would deliver oil from Canada's oil sands to Cushing, where it would then move oil to refineries along the Gulf Coast.
“The project, when approved, will bolster the nation's economy, modernize the country's energy infrastructure and strengthen our national security,” the letter stated.
“The pipeline will significantly serve our national energy needs by providing primary transportation for the development of Canadian oil reserves. It will also facilitate the safe transport of oil from the burgeoning Bakken oil field in North Dakota and Montana. Each attribute will add to the country's energy independence and to the economy of the entire midsection of this nation.”
Pruitt said he signed the letter because he believes the proposed pipeline is in the best interest of Oklahoma.
“Oklahoma has a unique interest in the completion of the Keystone XL pipeline because of the Cushing hub, which is the most significant trading hub for oil in the United States,” Pruitt told The Oklahoman on Tuesday. “This project without a doubt is good for this country and good for Oklahoma.”
The effort drew criticism from David Ocamb, president of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club.
“I definitely noticed the Arkansas attorney general is not listed here for obvious reasons,” Ocamb said. “He's too busy protecting the people of Arkansas, who are cleaning up the mess the tar sands leak left there.
“The Sierra Club would want Pruitt to spend more of his attention here on the potential dangers facing Oklahoma landowners rather than wanting to benefit a foreign country and a foreign company looking to send their oil through Oklahoma, putting all the dangers in Oklahoma in exchange for being able to sell it on the global marketplace,” Ocamb said.
Industry leaders have said Keystone is safe because it is designed for the thick diluted bitumen that is produced in the Canadian oil sands and because the proposed line would include modern manufacturing and manufacturing processes.
The Sierra Club and other environmental organizations have disputed that finding.
“In general, diluted bitumen is so fundamentally different from traditional crude oil with the pressure increase and viscosity decrease that we're really looking at an untested creature,” Ocamb said. “We as Oklahomans have lived with traditional crude oil and natural gas pipelines underneath us for the vast majority of this state's existence. The tar sands pipelines are a different creature and present a new and potentially more dangerous risk to Oklahomans.”
Construction began last year on the southern leg of the Keystone pipeline that will connect Cushing with the Gulf Coast. Developer TransCanada has said that section will be in service by the end of the year.