Oklahoma Rep. Lee Denney attends Obama speech, welcomes him to Cushing and applauds pipeline progress — but disagrees on priorities

Lee Denney — the Republican who represents Cushing, Oklahoma, in the state House of Representatives — welcomed President Barack Obama to her community yesterday. 

The pair had a brief exchange characterized as pleasant, but Denney made it clear he did not “go far enough for me — because far enough for me would have been in the next 30 days to sign the presidential order to open up the opportunity to build the pipeline from Hardesty [in Canada] down to Cushing. But, he did give us a glimmer of hope that he’s open to signing that.”

Denney told CapitolBeatOK the “Keystone XL pipeline guys” were happy to see him and the message he brought to the windy and cool hilltop north of Cushing and south of Stillwater.

She said, “I do think that is true. I’ve heard several people say that this is the first speech he’s even mentioned that he will revisit that topic of signing that presidential order. I think it gives us all hope.”

During an impromptu interview with this news website and The Tulsa World, Denney expressed happiness, “We’re going to get the Keystone pipeline project under way from the Cushing area down to the Houston area. He gave us hope he’s going to sign a presidential agreement [executive order] from Hardesty, Canada down to Cushing. That’s what we need to move the oil glut out of this area.”

She was happy she got to shake his hand, continuing, “I welcomed him to my district, and he said that we had good hospitality. So, I was very glad that we’ve been friendly to the president. 

“You know, … a town of 8,000 people, I did a little research, and to my knowledge we’ve never had a sitting president visit Cushing. So, it’s big for a city like Cushing.”

Denney said the city had no problem handling its share of logistics for a presidential visit: “We have the infrastructure of the oil and gas pipelines. We are very up-to-date, I’d say state of the art as far as our security.”

When a reporter asked Rep. Denney if she felt “kind of lonely as one of the few Republicans in the crowd,” she commented, “You know, I did look around and notice that. I’m sure I wasn’t the only Republican, but I might have been the only Republican from the state Legislature.

“You know, if we’re going to get things done in this country, we’re going to have to reach across the aisle and work in a bipartisan manner.” She pointed out that Dave Lopez, the Secretary of Commerce and a member of Governor Mary Fallin’s cabinet, was also in attendance. 

Pressed on the political and electoral effect of President Obama’s visit, she reflected, “Probably it will help some. I don’t know that it really hurts any Democrat. It’s just an honor to have a sitting president come to this part of the country.”

In a commentary circulated earlier this week, Rep. Denney wrote, “The U.S. Energy Information Agency forecasts that fossil fuels will account for 77 percent of the growing U.S. energy consumption in 2035, down slightly from the 83 percent today. Considering the vital role oil and gas will play over the next 20 years, it may be premature to shun these resources. But that’s exactly what we’re seeing. 

“Since his inauguration, President Obama has imposed a yearlong moratorium on Gulf drilling, instituted a five year plan which limits drilling access off the coasts and in Alaska, and denied resources from Canada via the Keystone XL pipeline.

“These policies have ceded much of our energy security, jobs, and influence over the price of crude to countries on the other side of the world. Now, we are seeing the effect of these poor decisions as gas prices increase uncontrollably.”

Denney explicitly rejected the Democratic president’s recent push for tax increase on oil and gas firms, levies that would reach some $4 billion.

She contended, “This move wouldn’t reduce crude oil prices. Instead, by removing a manufacturer’s deduction afforded to oil and gas refiners, these taxes could actually increase the cost of gasoline. The President and his cabinet have time and again demonstrated they simply don’t understand energy policy.”

She noted that Steve Chu, Obama’s secretary of Energy, has said the country needs to boost the level of gasoline prices to those in Europe, about $10 a gallon.

Rep. Denney concluded her commentary by saying, “As global demand creeps upward, it is important that the U.S. moves to secure oil and gas resources domestically and abroad to support our own growing demand. Instead, President Obama is pushing policies that are overly reliant on expensive and non-existent clean energy technologies, while at the same time boosting traditional fuel costs. As we try to recover from a recession, increasing fuel prices in this underhanded manner isn’t an energy policy but an energy disaster.”