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Obama Fast-Tracks Keystone Pipeline Segment
The Associated Press | March 22, 2012 | 03:18 PM EDT

President Barack Obama firmly defended his record on oil drilling Thursday, ordering the government to fast-track an Oklahoma pipeline while accusing Congress of playing politics with a larger Canada-to-Gulf Coast project.

Deep in Republican oil country, Obama said lawmakers refused to give his administration enough time review the controversial 1,170-mile Keystone XL pipeline in order to ensure that it wouldn't compromise the health and safety of people living in surrounding areas.

"Unfortunately, Congress decided they wanted their own timeline," Obama said. "Not the company, not the experts, but members of Congress who decided this might be a fun political issue decided to try to intervene and make it impossible for us to make an informed decision."

Facing fresh criticism from Republicans who blame him for gas prices near $4 a gallon, Obama announced Thursday that he was directing federal agencies to expedite the southern segment of the Keystone line. The 485-mile line will run from Cushing, Okla., to refineries on Texas' Gulf Coast that would remove a critical bottleneck in the country's oil transportation system. The directive would also apply to other pipelines that alleviate choke points.

"Anyone who says that we're somehow suppressing domestic oil production isn't paying attention," Obama said, speaking at the site of the new Oklahoma project.

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