SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- A proposed pipeline to carry oil from Canada to Texas Gulf Coast refineries is the "largest shovel-ready project in the country" with the potential to create thousands of jobs and reduce American dependence on oil from the Middle East, North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven said Saturday.
President Barack Obama faces a Feb. 21 deadline to decide whether the $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline expansion proposed by Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. is in the national interest.
Republicans have been pounding him on the issue, saying it's a question of whether the president wants to create jobs and import energy from a close friend and ally, or lose jobs and see Canadian oil go to Asia. Hoeven used his party's weekly radio and Internet address to continue pushing the pipeline.
"It's hard to imagine a project that is more in the national interest and the interest of the American people," Hoeven said in the address.
He said the pipeline would keep the cost of fuel in the U.S. down and create thousands of jobs for American workers when the nation greatly needs them.
The U.S. State Department delayed a decision on granting a permit in November, largely because of worries about the pipeline's environmental impact, especially in the Nebraska Sandhills, a region of porous hills that includes a high concentration of wetlands and a key aquifer.
The proposed 1,700-mile expansion would go through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. So-called feeder pipelines would connect the Keystone XL to rich oil fields in North Dakota and Montana.
A section of the pipeline that's already built enters the U.S. in North Dakota and forks in Steele City, Neb., with branches going east and south to refineries in Illinois and Oklahoma.
Hoeven said Keystone XL is the kind of project that will grow the U.S. economy, and he called on Obama to join Republicans in creating a legal, tax and regulatory environment that empowers private investment.
"That's the approach that will grow our economy and get people back to work," Hoeven said. "That's the approach that will reduce our deficit and debt, and strengthen our nation."