JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon enthusiastically endorsed plans Tuesday for a new Midwestern oil pipeline, emphasizing its potential for thousands of construction jobs while drawing a contrast with President Barack Obama's recent rejection of a separate cross-country pipeline.
Nixon embraced plans by Enbridge Inc. to build a new 600-mile pipeline from Flanagan, Ill., to Cushing, Okla., that would follow an existing pipeline route running diagonally from northeast to west-central Missouri. The company is still soliciting commitments from oil shippers but hopes to begin construction in the middle of 2013 and complete work on the $1.9 billion project a year later.
Enbridge, a Calgary, Canada-based company with its U.S. operations headquartered in Houston, sent letters detailing its plans last week to elected officials and landowners along the path of the proposed pipeline, said company spokesman Kevin O'Connor. He said the company wasn't seeking official endorsements.
But Nixon, a Democrat up for election this year, responded quickly with a Tuesday news conference announcing his support in rural Shelby County — one of 11 Missouri counties the pipeline would cross.
"We believe this proposal has tremendous potential to boost Missouri's economy, create construction jobs across our state and brighten America's energy future," Nixon said in a telephone conference call with reporters.
The governor pledged that his administration would work smoothly to provide whatever state permits are necessary.
Nixon's announcement came just a couple of weeks after Obama rejected plans for a different, 1,700-mile oil pipeline that would run from the Canada to Texas. The Keystone XL pipeline would not have crossed Missouri. But it had generated some concerns because it would have cut through an environmentally sensitive area of Nebraska that supplies water to eight states.
The Keystone project, proposed by Calgary-based TransCanada Corp., required presidential approval because it crossed the U.S border. The Enbridge project does not cross international borders and so does not require approval from the U.S. State Department.
Asked if he was intentionally drawing a contrast with Obama's rejection of an oil pipeline, Nixon responded: "We do do things differently here in Missouri." He added that the Enbridge project not only would create construction jobs but also could provide a stable energy source that could result in lower fuel prices.
Enbridge estimates the project could employ 3,400 construction workers for the pipeline and an additional 300 to 400 people for related facilities, such as pump stations. The underground pipeline would cross about 210 miles of Missouri, O'Connor said. Its geographic obstacles would include the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.
Ken Midkiff, chairman of the Missouri Clean Water Campaign for the Sierra Club, said Tuesday that he was unaware of the proposed pipeline.
"I'm hesitantly skeptical, but I would have to review the plans," Midkiff said.