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January 31, 2014

Okla. reacts to no mention of Keystone project

TULSA — Members of Oklahoma’s all-Republican congressional delegation are upset President Barack Obama didn’t mention the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project in his State of the Union speech earlier this week.

TransCanada’s pipeline would run from western Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast and employ about 9,000 workers to build it. Company spokesman Shawn Howard estimates construction could take about two years, weather permitting. Howard did not have an estimate of how many permanent jobs the project would create.

The U.S. State Department is conducting an environmental review of the proposed project — likely the reason Obama didn’t mention it in his address to Congress — and it’s unclear when the federal agency will issue its evaluation. The president and his advisers will have three months after that to determine whether the project is in the national interest.

Obama refused to issue a permit for part of the project in 2012 amid concerns about its potential impact on a large aquifer in Nebraska. TransCanada, however, received clearance to build the southern leg of the pipeline, which runs between Cushing and the Gulf Coast and began shipping oil on Jan. 22.

Obama backed the southern leg of the project during a visit to a pipeyard near Cushing in 2012, describing the city as a “bottleneck” between producers and refineries along the Texas coast. Obama said then that increased oil and gas production was part of his domestic energy policy.

Since then, Republicans who want Keystone XL to go forward have claimed Obama could with the stroke of a pen help achieve energy independence for North America and create thousands of jobs — a claim that has been disputed by the project’s critics because the number of permanent jobs isn’t known.

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