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States And Businesses Continue Playing The Keystone XL Waiting Game


In 2012, this program traveled to Oklahoma and Nebraska and talked to folks about the Keystone XL pipeline.

GUY RAZ: Now, to fully understand the impact of Keystone XL, you have to visit the small town of Cushing, Oklahoma, known locally as the pipeline crossroads of the world.

RATH: Longtime listeners to the show will recognize that voice. The man who used to sit in this chair - NPR's Guy Raz.


PETE SCHWIERING: You're hearing the crude oil flowing through the pipeline.

RAZ: This is the TransCanada Keystone pipeline. It starts in Alberta, Canada. It travels almost 2,000 miles and ends right here in Cushing.

RATH: Then, that part of the Keystone pipeline system had just been finished. And the question everyone was in Cushing was asking was this - will the U.S. government approve a larger version of the pipeline, the Keystone XL? Three years later, that's still the question. President Obama said last week he would veto a congressional bill OKing the pipeline. Meanwhile, the Nebraska Supreme Court opened the way for the pipeline to pass through that state if it's approved.


RAZ: Do you want to take us in first?


RATH: So returning to Cushing, Oklahoma.


SCHWIERING: Careful, there's a little water.

RATH: In 2012, we talked to Pete Schwiering, the chief operating officer for Rose Rock Midstream, an oil storage company in Cushing.


RAZ: So this is the inside.

SCHWIERING: This is the roof of the tank right here.

RATH: At the time, his company was building new storage tanks to handle all the crude oil already coming to town in the current pipeline.


SCHWIERING: I've been in this business 42 years, and I've never seen activity out there on the production side like what's happening right now in northern Oklahoma, western Oklahoma.

RAZ: These are good times.


RATH: This week we called Pete Schwiering to see what's changed since then. Are times still good?

SCHWIERING: Yes. I mean, we still see a lot of strong production out there. Of course, the decline in prices is going to have an effect, but we really haven't felt the effects of that yet. Our pipelines are still full. And our trucks are full.

RATH: The decline in oil prices is Schwiering's main concern these days. Since we spoke to him, it's been all boom times, even though the XL pipeline hasn't been built.

SCHWIERING: We built a lot of pipelines since we last talked. We got two major lines.

RATH: In the national debate over the XL pipeline, job creation is a frequent argument in favor. But Schwiering's company has been growing even without it.

SCHWIERING: Without looking at the exact numbers, we probably doubled our people.

RATH: But Schwiering is clear. Even if XL wouldn't directly create jobs in Cushing, he still thinks it's important to build the pipeline for one big reason - OPEC.

SCHWIERING: Well, I mean, I don't want to see America become as dependent as we have been at times in our history on OPEC for our crude oil supplies.

RATH: Schwiering thinks all those jobs that have been created could be in danger if oil prices stay low. So just as he was three years ago, he's hoping the XL pipeline will be built. The bill could land on the president's desk by the end of this month. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.