U.S. President Barack Obama, during an appearance in Cushing, Okla., said his administration would "cut through the red tape" and make the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline "a priority."
Canadian pipeline company TransCanada aims to build the multibillion-dollar Keystone XL pipeline to carry so-called tar sands oil from Canada to refineries along the southern U.S. coast. It expects the southern leg, the stand-alone Gulf Coast Project, to be in service by next year.
The southern leg is designed to ease bottlenecks at the Cushing oil hub. Those limit the amount of crude oil reaching refineries.
U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., said it was wrong for Obama to support the Gulf Coast Project while blocking the rest of the project.
The administration rejected a permit for the entire Keystone XL, citing time constraints for the review of parts of the project planned through Nebraska.
Larry Schweiger, president and chief executive officer at the National Wildlife Federation, said backing major oil projects like Keystone XL was the wrong policy in general.
"Rushing pipelines and drill rigs for rich oil executives will only delay the investments we need in renewable energy and create long-lasting damage to our waters and lands," he said in a statement.