WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is scheduled to arrive in Oklahoma City on Wednesday for part of a four-state energy tour that will focus in Oklahoma on domestic energy production and the highly charged issue of the Keystone XL pipeline.
The president plans to travel Thursday to a pipe yard in Payne County owned by TransCanada, the company that has proposed building the Keystone XL pipeline to carry crude from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast.
The administration in January rejected a permit for the northern segment of that pipeline because a route through Nebraska is still being finalized, but the president promised to expedite approval for the segment connecting the oil storage hub in Cushing to Port Arthur, Texas.
The pipe yard where the president will deliver remarks Thursday contains a few miles of pipe for that 500-mile construction project, according to TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha.
Cunha said Tuesday that no TransCanada representatives will participate in Thursday's event.
“This is purely a White House event that is using our pipe yard for a backdrop,” Cunha said.
TransCanada had some hesitation about the event for safety reasons but not because there was any animosity between the company and the administration, Cunha said. After discussions with the White House, the company is comfortable with the safety measures taken for the pipe yard event, he said.
TransCanada is still waiting for approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before it can proceed with the
Building that segment will relieve a bottleneck of crude in Cushing and move cheaper domestic crude to refineries, Cunha said.
Obama's energy tour, which also will take him to Nevada, New Mexico and Ohio on Wednesday and Thursday, comes as the administration is being blamed by Republicans and oil company trade groups for not doing enough to increase domestic production and lower gasoline prices.
The president has countered by saying that domestic production has increased under his administration and that oil imports have dropped in every year of his term.