Obama Set to Speed Up Approval of Tar Sands Pipeline

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Common Dreams

Obama Set to Speed Up Approval of Tar Sands Pipeline

Cushing, Oklahoma, to Port Arthur, Texas, section likely to be quickly approved

by
Common Dreams staff

Although "the most critical part of the pipeline still can't be built," Bill McKibben writes, "the sense grows that Obama may be setting us up for a bitter disappointment -- that his real allegiance is to the carbon barons." (photo: Christine Irvine / Tar Sands Action)

Although President Obama denied a permit for the main Keystone XL pipeline from Canada's tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico in January, it is expected that he will announce on Thursday on a visit to Cushing, Oklahoma, a plan to speed up the permit for the southern section of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry tar sands crude from Cushing to Port Arthur, Texas.

Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity said today, “Keystone XL may be a boon to Big Oil companies in the exporting business but those profits will come at a stiff price for our land, water, wildlife and climate.” “Building Keystone XL in pieces doesn’t make it any less dangerous.”

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CNN: Obama to fast track southern half of Keystone XL Pipeline

President Barack Obama plans to announce in Cushing, Oklahoma 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 tells CNN.

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The Texas Tribune: Obama to talk about Keystone XL pipeline in Oklahoma this week

A White House official confirmed Tuesday that the president on Thursday will "reiterate his administration's commitment to expediting the construction of a pipeline from Cushing, Okla., to the Gulf of Mexico, relieving a bottleneck of oil and bringing domestic resources to market."

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Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian/UK:
On two-day energy tour, US president is expected to hasten building of southern section of tar sands line out of Canada

Barack Obama is expected to speed up approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline on Thursday after taking to the road with what the White House is billing as an "all of the above" energy tour.

Obama's planned visit to the oil hub of Cushing, Oklahoma, on day two of the energy tour has raised expectations he will speed up approval of the southern US-only segment of the pipeline, running from the town to Port Arthur, Texas.

The approval, which would infuriate environmental groups, could allow construction on that portion to begin before November's presidential elections instead of next year.

Obama's tour starts with a visit to the country's biggest operating solar farm in Boulder City, Nevada. The White House said in a statement: "The president will highlight his administration's focus on diversifying our energy portfolio, including expanding renewable energy from sources like wind and solar, which thanks in part to investments made by this administration is set to double in the president's first term."

But the visit seemed a detour on a trip apparently solidly focused on fossil fuels and the price of gas at the pump.

Obama has been under nonstop attack from Republicans for rising petrol prices, which now stand at well over $4 (£2.50) for a US gallon in some parts of the country, and for his decision in January to halt the pipeline because of a section running through an ecologically sensitive part of Nebraska.

On the campaign trail, Newt Gingrich has said he would cut gas prices to $2.50 if he is elected president, and Mitt Romney has taken to demanding Obama sack his energy secretary, Steven Chu, the interior secretary, Ken Salazar, and his Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Lisa Jackson. Gingrich calls the three the "gas hike trio".

But Obama's forthcoming speech at a pipe yard owned by TransCanada, the Canadian company behind the project to pump crude from the tar sands of Alberta, was seen as a strong signal that the pipeline – at least, the portion running from Cushing to Port Arthur, Texas – is back on track.

The White House said last month it would allow the southern portion, which requires no State Department approval, to go ahead. It was not immediately clear how Obama would push the process along further.

TransCanada has said it will go ahead with the Cushing-Port Arthur segment of the pipeline as soon it gets the go-ahead from the army corps of engineers.

The White House said in a statement Obama's visiting Cushing was intended to show his commitment to "improving and supporting the infrastructure that helps us leverage our domestic resources, while also ensuring these projects are developed in a safe and responsible way".

It continued: "This includes a pipeline that will transport oil from Cushing to the Gulf of Mexico, which will help address the bottleneck of oil that has resulted in large part from increased domestic oil production in the midwest."

Fast-tracking a portion of the pipeline would be a huge disappointment for a broad coalition of activists who have campaigned against the project, framing it as a test of Obama's green credentials.

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Bill McKibben: Mr. Obama Goes to Cushing, OK

Amidst the many environmental disappointments of the Obama administration -- the fizzled Copenhagen conference, the opening of vast swathes of the Arctic to drilling and huge stretches of federal land across the northern Plains to coal-mining, the failure to work for climate legislation in the Senate, the shameful blocking of regulations to control ozone -- the president has done one somewhat brave thing. He responded to the largest outpouring of environmental enthusiasm so far this millennium and denied a permit for the main Keystone XL pipe from Canada's tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico.

Cynics said he did so just to avoid disappointing young people before the election, and pointed out that he invited pipeline proponent Transcanada to reapply for the permit. It's hard not to wonder if those cynics might be right, now that he's going to Oklahoma to laud the southern half of the project just as Transcanada executives have requested.

True, the most critical part of the pipeline still can't be built -- thanks to Obama and 42 Democratic Senators, the connection to Canada remains blocked, and hence that remains a great victory for the people who rallied so fiercely all fall. But the sense grows that Obama may be setting us up for a bitter disappointment -- that his real allegiance is to the carbon barons.

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Center for Biological Diversity: Obama Trumpets Dirty Fuel Pipeline That Will Allow Global Export of Tar Sands Oil, Worsen Climate Crisis

“The Gulf Coast leg would add to the fossil fuel infrastructure at a time when we critically need to transition away from fossil fuels in order to avoid climate catastrophe,” said Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Just like Keystone I, the Gulf Coast leg of Keystone XL will spill, polluting land and water and ruining important habitat for endangered species like the whooping crane, piping plover, American burying beetle, interior least tern, and Arkansas River shiner.”

“The president’s support for this pipeline is troubling,” said Greenwald. “Keystone XL may be a boon to Big Oil companies in the exporting business but those profits will come at a stiff price for our land, water, wildlife and climate.”

“The American people have spoken clearly against this project,” said Greenwald. “Building Keystone XL in pieces doesn’t make it any less dangerous.”

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