NORMAN — Oklahoma is at the center of one of the biggest environmental controversies in history.
Sen. Jim Inhofe visited The Transcript on Wednesday while in Norman and answered questions about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and its connection to Oklahoma.
“Cushing is where all the action is,” Inhofe said. “You have your Alberta tar sands that are so productive. The idea is to get it (the crude oil) down to Houston.”
Inhofe is the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that oversees the Environmental Protection Agency.
Currently, the tar sands crude is part of the product shipping into Cushing, a major trading hub for crude oil. Because pipelines run into the city — not out — that oil is going into storage, rather than moving to refineries. Oil stockpiles in Cushing hit their highest levels earlier this year.
The proposed Keystone pipeline would travel from northern Alberta in Canada through the United States on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. That journey would include Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.
Inhofe said there are two phases to the approval of the pipeline. Part one is approval by the EPA.
“The EPA has to issue a certificate showing they’ve gone through all of the environmental issues,” Inhofe said. “That part is already done. It’s taken longer than it should have.”
The Keystone pipeline would send tar sands crude to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Currently, those coastal refineries are buying crude on the international market.
Whether the oil stays in the United States or is sold internationally will depend on the market, Inhofe said.
“The big issue is this — we have the largest recoverable resources in oil, coal and gas,” Inhofe said.
The second phase of approval for the Keystone pipeline lies with the U.S. Department of State and, thus, the president.