OKLAHOMA CITY —
While the debate continues over whether the United States will approve a proposed oil conduit from Canada to the Gulf Coast, the segment from Cushing to the Texas Gulf Coast is halfway toward completion and could be transporting oil by the end of the year.
President Barack Obama traveled to Oklahoma nearly a year ago to tout construction of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline from the Cushing oil hub to Houston-area refineries. A decision on whether to allow the longer pipeline awaits the results of a U.S. State Department review that is necessary because the oil would be carried across an international border.
Nearly 4,000 workers in Oklahoma and Texas are aligning and welding a 485-mile section, TransCanada spokesman David Dodson told The Associated Press.
“We’re right at peak right now,” he said. “We hope to have it in operation by the end of this year.”
TransCanada applied for a federal permit almost five years ago but its construction has become controversial. Environmentalists warn of potential spills and say extracting and using tar sands oil, which the pipeline would carry from Alberta, would worsen climate change. Unions and TransCanada counters the project will bring thousands of jobs and bolster the United States’ oil supply from its friends and neighbors.
Work started in Oklahoma about two months ago. Dodson, from TransCanada, said protests against it — formerly limited to Texas — have come with it. At least two so-called “direct actions” involved people locking themselves to construction equipment to prevent its use, leading to 10 arrests in central Oklahoma.
“What we’re working on — and experiencing some success with — is trying to amplify the voices of people who aren’t represented by the national discourse,” said Jay Morris, a spokesman for the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance in Oklahoma. Those people include those living at both ends of the Keystone XL proposal, he said: where the oil is extracted and where it’s processed and refined.”