Obama Cuts Red Tape for Part of Keystone

During a visit to Cushing, Okla., on Thursday, President Obama will announce an Executive Order requiring expedited permitting and review of "vital infrastructure projects," including the southern portion of the controversial Keystone pipeline.

The order will establish a multi-agency task force to identify the most urgent projects by the end of April and create a roadmap for permitting them by the end of May, the White House says.

The effort will streamline the existing ordeal  by reducing duplicate efforts and enhancing coordination between decision-makers, officials say. It's expected to "significantly reduce" the wait time for all major  pending highway, port, airport, electricity transmission, and pipeline projects.

Obama will also issue a presidential memorandum making the Cushing pipeline, which would run from Oklahoma to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico, a top priority.

"The need for pipeline infrastructure is urgent because rising American oil production is outpacing the capacity of pipelines to deliver oil to refineries," the administration said in statement.

Obama will also make it clear that the expedited process must not sacrifice "the health, safety and security of communities and the environment."

While the president's announcement focuses on the domestic portion of the Keystone XL pipeline, Republicans have not relented in criticizing his decision to block the northern portion that would extend to the tar sands of Alberta, Canada.

 "There is only one permit that matters for this pipeline, and the president continues to block it," said Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner. "The approval needed for this leg of the project is so minor and routine that only a desperate administration would inject the president of the United States into the process. This is like the governor holding a press conference to renew my driver's license - except this announcement still leaves American energy and jobs behind."

 Republicans and some Democrats have pressed Obama to approve the entire pipeline which is estimated to create thousands of jobs.