WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., sharply criticized President Barack Obama on Tuesday for delaying until 2013 a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline.

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., sharply criticized President Barack Obama on Tuesday for delaying until 2013 a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline.

TransCanada wants to build a $7 billion pipeline to carry crude oil from the oil sands in Alberta to refineries in Texas.

Last week, the State Department said it wanted the pipeline rerouted to avoid environmentally sensitive areas of Nebraska, delaying a decision until 2013.

“That just stinks. That just wreaks of politics,” Griffin said during a news conference he organized with more than a dozen House Republicans who echoed his charge.

“This is shovel ready,” Griffin said, adding that the delay would cost tens of thousands of needed jobs.

Although the pipeline won’t run through Arkansas, a good stretch of it is being produced in the state at Welspun Tubular in Little Rock.

About 600 employees there have been working day and night for months manufacturing the 36-inch steel pipe for TransCanada. They have 500 miles of pipe stacked up on-site awaiting shipment.

David Delie, president of the company, said that he expects to complete work on the remainder of the order by April but isn’t certain when TransCanada will take delivery of the pipe.

Delie, who attended the news conference, said he is more concerned about future orders given the “uncertainty” that this delay may bring to potential pipeline projects.

“The uncertainty created by this makes future pipelines a question,” he said.

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman had expressed grave concerns that running the pipeline through the Sand Hills could threaten one of the state’s largest sources of drinking water.

On Monday, TransCanada agreed to reroute the pipeline to avoid the area where the water table for Ogallala Aquifer is often just inches below ground.

“Through our persistence and determination, the State Department heard our concerns. Additionally, TransCanada has heard our concerns and has voluntarily agreed to change the route,” Heineman said in a statement issued Monday.

Griffin and Delie dismissed the environmental concerns raised by pipeline opponents. They said modern pipelines are better designed to withstand corrosion and can be inspected inside and out.

Moreover, they noted that if the pipeline were not built Canada would likely ship the crude oil to China for refining.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said that the State Department delay highlights the need for Canada to broaden its energy customer base beyond the United States.

Griffin and a handful of other House Republicans met with Alberta Premier Alison Redford Tuesday morning at the Canadian Embassy for breakfast.

“They were very frank and made it clear they want to be working with us but have little choice but to look elsewhere. They need this oil refined,” Griffin said. “The question is will it be us or China.”