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Obama fast-tracks part of Keystone XL pipeline (+video)

After rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline proposal in January, President Obama gives a green light to its southern leg – a bid to ease a key bottleneck to new oil supplies and defuse critics on gas prices.

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In a bid to defuse Republicans' claims he isn't doing enough to boost US energy security or squelch soaring gasoline prices, President Obama on Wednesday embraced a plan to grant fast-track status to the proposed southern leg of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

“Unresolved concerns” over the original 1,700-mile pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf Coast refineries – including energy security, economic effects, and environmental impacts – caused Mr. Obama in January to reject the overall pipeline application. Environmentalists cheered the president then, while noting Obama's caveat that the decision could change after environmental reviews are completed. But few expected the White House to be banging the drum for Keystone XL so soon.

In a visit Thursday to Cushing, Okla., which touts itself as the "pipeline crossroads of the world," the president unveiled his support for a smaller 500-mile portion of the pipeline – a southern leg that would run to Gulf Coast refineries in Port Arthur, Texas. The longer northern portion of the route – which crosses the environmentally sensitive Ogallala Aquifer and Nebraska's Sandhills – would still face intensive review, he said.

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