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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript

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What is the -- what is the problem with this pipeline? Why is it a political issue, Congressman? Why is it being built? Why -- if it isn`t being built, is that an opportunity to slam the president?

REP. JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA: It`s not being built. And that is the frustration. When the president said Congress jumped into it, the previous pipeline that went from Canada into the United States across the border, same company, same process, took 24 months to permit. This one is at 44 months and climbing.

And so, the frustration is let`s get on with it. This is just another pipeline that`s coming in. In fact, we passed a pipeline safety bill out of the House and the Senate and the president signed last year. So, it`s supposed to be even more safe in the process.

MATTHEWS: OK. What do you make of the charge that -- or the argument that the reason there`s slowness of getting this approve is there`s a endangerment of people`s water wells? That people have wells all along the Northwest pipeline route, and along that route, there are people who get their water from the ground. And if you start running pipeline through it, you can -- pipelines, by the way, leak, they do leak, and you are endangering their water sources.

LANKFORD: Well, here`s the problem with that. If you actually look at a map of that underground aquifer that runs from Nebraska, all the way South into Texas, if you look at a map of that aquifer, and then also laid the pipeline map on top of it, there are thousands of miles of pipeline that already run through that aquifer.

Now, I`m all for the people of Nebraska being able to determine the route for it, but it`s difficult to say, we`ve got to make sure this pipeline doesn`t go through this aquifer when there are thousands and thousands of miles of pipeline already there.

MATTHEWS: Isn`t this a 10-lane highway of pipeline? Isn`t this exponentially a greater highway for oil? And therefore more troubling concern?

LANKFORD: No, sir. This is actually will be the safest pipeline ever. We just put in new safety regulations to the House and the Senate last year that the president signed on to. So, this has to meet those excessive new safety regulations on that.

So, it`s a very big deal to get a chance to protect water, but we`re not in a situation where we`re worried about every pipeline. If you look at our pipeline map, we have thousands of miles of pipeline.

MATTHEWS: You know, back in the `70s, when I was first doing investigative reporting, I did a little study before I went to work for Nader (ph), and there was 125,000 miles of pipeline in the United States, oil pipeline. And you know how many inspectors there were? One. One.

LANKFORD: Well, I`ll tell you what?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: So I`m not as confident as you are about pipeline safety.

Let me go to Joan on this.

Joan, you and I are generalist, not experts on this kind of thing. But politically, I see the president in a problem area here. To be halfway for something endangers you and makes you enemies on both sides.

JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, it does.

MATTHEWS: Take it from a centrist. I know what it`s like.

WALSH: Yes, you get kicked from both sides. And, you know, some days if we`re centrists, we say, well, we must be doing something right. We got everybody mad at us. But sometimes, when everybody is mad at you, maybe you`re a little bit wrong.

And I think the president has a very tricky, tricky position here, Chris. It`s very classic Barack Obama. He wants to be the man in the middle. He wants to be the man of moderation. He wants to split the baby, not literally. And he wants to come up with a compromise that works

I just don`t think it`s possible here, you know? And you have really covered what safety risks are. Also, in terms of what this does to consumers, this could even actually raise prices, rather than bring them down. This oil goes straight to the Gulf, most of it goes, if not all of it goes, to the international market.

LANKFORD: That`s not true.

WALSH: It doesn`t do anything for domestic gas prices.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s do a fact check here.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Joan, I agree with you. I understand it`s all fungibles, Congressman. It gets to the Gulf, once it`s been refined. It`s open to international sale, there`s no restriction keeping it here on America.

WALSH: Right.

LANKFORD: But the vast majority of that oil come as refined. In the Gulf region, it comes right back in the United States -- same with the oil that`s coming out of Canada. What we`ve got to understand this, we`re at a new high here, 58 percent --

WALSH: That`s not true.

LANKFORD: -- fifty-eight percent of the oil that we use -- that we produce in America is being used in America. And so, that 58 percent of all of the oil we`re not exporting that vast amount, the president is dead on producing more. If you take Canada, Mexico, and the United States,
three of us together in pipelines, it`s right at 80 percent of all of the oil we would use. We could finally work towards getting off Middle East oil.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, we have no control of that.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I know the facts. We can`t control where the oil goes once it`s refined. It`s on international market. It may come back here, it may not.

Thank you, Congressman Lankford, for coming on HARDBALL.

WALSH: Right. It goes to the highest bidder.

MATTHEWS: And -- yes, well, that`s the way our system works, Joan. And we all love it.

Joan Walsh, and we love the free enterprise system.

When we return, "Let Me Finish" with a staggering admission that Mitt Romney`s word according to his top aide, is not his bond.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

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