U.S. Moves Forward with Southern Keystone Pipeline

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The U.S. government is moving forward with a portion of the Keystone pipeline, following the lead of many Americans who say they want it.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved the southern section of the pipeline running from Cushing, Okla., through Texas to Port Arthur on the Gulf Coast.

That's good news for the economy in Houston and other points along the way.

"All the engineering design will come out of Texas, mostly Houston," Rick Slemaker, publisher of Energy magazine said. "These businesses here will be constructing it. These steps that are happening are benefiting Houston greatly."

The Obama administration's approval for part of the project reflects what many Americans believe. The latest Washington Post poll shows more than 60 percent of registered voters polled said the government should approve the building of the pipeline.

Eighty-two percent said they believed the pipeline would create jobs while 34 percent said they were concerned the project would harm the environment.

In January, the president denied TransCanada permission to build the northern part of the pipeline, stretching from Canada to Oklahoma. He said Congress had not given him adequate time to review the environmental impact.

But the move quickly became campaign material for his Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

"One of the no-brainer decisions of the last year has been the Keystone pipeline," Romney has said on the campaign trail. "How in the world an administration can decide we're not going to bring in oil from Canada is beyond me."

The pipeline also reflects the desire of many Americans to reduce U.S. dependency on foreign oil.

"It's going to give us even more oil supply, which will fill up our coffers and will allow more competition for that fuel and the price will go down," Slemaker said.

But environmental activists like Matthew Tejada, executive director of Air Alliance Houston, said the pipeline will not make the country more energy independent or reduce the price of gasoline.

Tejada said the pipeline is simply helping the bottom line of some big companies and is not worth the environmental risk.

"This is the cheapest way for them to get the stuff they process in these refineries. The refineries in Texas are the best ones at processing this heavy, dirty crude," he said.

The question now is whether the White House will approve the northern portion of the pipeline - a move that might not happen until after November.

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