The White House today stepped up its counteroffensive against GOP attacks on President Barack Obama’s energy record, announcing that a Canadian oil firm was resubmitting its Keystone XL pipeline plan for a federal permit.
The TransCanada pipeline project, which would ship Canadian shale oil to the Midwest and Gulf Coast to be refined, has become a key talking point for Republicans, who have accused the White House of opposing it at the behest of environmentalists. Republicans forced the president to make a decision on the pipeline as part of last year’s deal to extend the payroll tax, but the White House said it couldn’t approve it until all environmental and other reviews have been completed. When Obama rejected the pipeline application, he invited TransCanada to resubmit its application.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney used the announcement to hammer Republicans, saying, “House Republicans forced a rejection of the company’s earlier application in January, by not allowing sufficient time for important review or even the identification of a complete pipeline route.”
“But as we made clear, the president’s decision in January in no way prejudged future applications. We will ensure any project receives the important assessment it deserves and will base a decision to provide a permit on the completion of that review,” Carney added.
Republicans remained cautious in their response, arguing the news that a new pipeline route is being considered raises fresh questions about the administration’s previous opposition.
“It’s good news that progress is continuing on a project that would create tens of thousands of American jobs and keep Canada from selling North American energy to the Chinese, but it also makes the Obama administration’s refusal to approve it even more disturbing,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (Ohio).
With gas prices on the rise nationwide, energy issues have become a central battleground of the 2012 elections.
Although Republicans have had significant success with their attacks on Democrats, the administration in recent days has increasingly engaged the GOP on the issue, and the Keystone announcement comes at the same time that U.S. oil companies have reported exporting massive amounts of oil and gas to overseas markets, which has partially fueled the increase in price.
Carney also announced that TransCanada would build a pipeline from Cushing, Okla., to the Gulf of Mexico to “help address the bottleneck of oil in Cushing that has resulted in large part from increased domestic oil production, currently at an eight-year high. Moving oil from the Midwest to the world-class, state-of-the-art refineries on the Gulf Coast will modernize our infrastructure, create jobs and encourage American energy production. We look forward to working with TransCanada to ensure that it is built in a safe, responsible and timely manner, and we commit to take every step possible to expedite the necessary federal permits.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.