Obama to order expedited action on Keystone pipeline's southern piece

President Obama will issue a memo Thursday telling federal agencies to expedite permitting for an Oklahoma-to-Texas oil pipeline that makes up the southern portion of the Keystone XL project, the White House said.

He'll also issue a broader executive order demanding faster permitting and review decisions for energy- and transportation-related infrastructure.

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The upcoming memos, to be announced formally during a visit to Oklahoma, are among a series of steps the White House is taking to parry GOP attacks on Obama’s energy record amid rising gasoline prices.

Obama, as part of a four-state energy-themed tour that began Wednesday, will be in Cushing, Okla., tomorrow to emphasize support for a planned pipeline from that area to Gulf Coast refineries.

From the White House:

As part of this effort to develop American infrastructure, the President will ... issue a specific Memorandum in Cushing directing federal agencies to expedite the Cushing Pipeline and other pipelines that relieve bottlenecks as the top priority of the new [executive order's] permitting process. The need for pipeline infrastructure is urgent because rising American oil production is outpacing the capacity of pipelines to deliver oil to refineries.

Obama in January rejected a cross-border permit for TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline to bring oil sands from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries. But the White House has signaled support for plans to build the southern, Oklahoma-to-Texas portion of the project. The company plans to reapply for the cross-border portion.

The White House also said that Obama will issue an executive order Thursday on “Improving Performance of Federal Permitting and Review of Infrastructure Projects” that “will require agencies to make faster permitting and review decisions for vital infrastructure projects while protecting the health and vitality of local communities and the environment.”

It’s aimed at speeding decisions on infrastructure projects including roads and surface transportation, aviation, ports and waterways, water resource projects, renewable energy generation, electricity transmission, broadband and pipelines, the White House said.

Here’s more from the White House:

Specifically, the [executive order] will direct agencies to, by the end of April, identify regionally and nationally significant infrastructure projects that will be tracked on the Federal Infrastructure Dashboard so that Federal permitting and review schedules and progress for these important projects are available online. Because many permitting and review decisions for significant infrastructure projects involve multiple Federal agencies, the Executive Order sets up a Steering Committee chaired by the Office of Management and Budget’s Chief Performance Officer and composed of relevant Federal agencies and directs it to develop a Federal government-wide plan by the end of May that includes clear deliverables and timelines for reducing the amount of time it takes to make permitting and review decisions. This Federal Plan will institutionalize permitting and review improvements like conducting permitting analyses and reviews concurrently rather than sequentially to eliminate duplication; enhancing coordination with State, local, and tribal governments; engaging early with stakeholders; and using information technology to replace outdated paperwork.

This post was updated at 6:55 p.m.

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