“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,” the White House said in its announcement.
“…It is critical that we make pipeline infrastructure a top priority. …This Presidential Memorandum builds on a strong record of accomplishment.”
Republican Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), John Thune (R-S.D), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and David Vitter (R-La.) will respond to the Cushing visit with a press conference on the Hill directly afterward.
“President Obama’s visit just highlights that he is continuing to obstruct construction of the Keystone XL project while gas prices continue to rise for American consumers,” Hoeven’s office said in announcing the planned rebuttal. “The fact is, the southern portion of the project doesn’t require presidential approval because it doesn’t cross an international border. It requires approval by only state authorities, the Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies.”
Not that Republicans have been resting on their laurels waiting for the president to come back to Washington. On Tuesday, Lugar lashed out at the administration at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee nomination hearing for the first assistant secretary of State who would be devoted entirely to energy issues.
“Given the multiple crises in the Middle East, and the certainty that threats to oil supplies are not limited to the current Iran situation, President Obama did not act in our national interest when he rejected approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline,” Lugar said. ”Even his own Energy Department says that Keystone would help lower gasoline prices. After more than three years of State Department review, one must conclude that it was presidential politics, not lack of time which led the president to reject the pipeline.”
Obama wraps up Thursday at Ohio State University in Columbus to tour the Center for Automotive Research — namely, electric cars.
While he was away today, a group of liberal senators advanced a strategy of blaming pump prices on rampant speculation by introducing a bill that would order federal regulators to “invoke emergency powers to rein in crude oil market speculators responsible for rapidly rising gas prices,” said the office of sponsor Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).
The bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), gives the Commodity Futures Trading Commission a 14-day deadline to implement trading limits outlined in the Wall Street reform law.
“To combat excessive gas prices we need a crackdown on out of control speculation and gambling in oil markets,” Blumenthal said. ”This agency — inactive for too long — must be compelled to act, stopping manipulation and abuses that cost consumers and endanger our fragile economic recovery. Emergency powers of the CFTC must be used now to correct market dysfunction and disruption driving up prices at the pump.”
Blumenthal asked Attorney General Eric Holder on Sunday to probe and punish “excessive speculation” in the oil markets.