By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON Feb 24 U.S. President Barack Obama
told governors at a White House meeting on Monday he expects a
decision on whether to allow the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline
from Canada in the next couple of months, Oklahoma Governor Mary
Fallin told reporters.
Fallin, a Republican who strongly supports the pipeline,
said she asked Obama whether he would use his executive powers
to approve the pipeline, which has been under government review
"He did come back and say that he anticipates an answer one
way or the other in a couple months," Fallin said after the
governors met with Obama.
Opponents of the project say TransCanada Corp's pipeline
would exacerbate climate change by supporting carbon-intensive
development of Canada's oil sands crude. Supporters in Congress
and the energy industry say Keystone would improve U.S. energy
security and create thousands of construction jobs.
The decision puts Obama in a difficult political spot ahead
of the 2014 midterm elections, where Democratic control of the
U.S. Senate is at stake.
If he approves the project, he risks alienating core
Democratic supporters. But denying it will anger labor unions,
and could hurt Democratic incumbents in several tight races.
Some have speculated Obama could wait until after the
November elections to decide, although his comments to Fallin
would suggest an earlier ruling.
White House spokesman Jay Carney declined to say whether
Obama gave Fallin an estimated timeline, and noted the State
Department is gathering comments from other government agencies
and the public on the $5.4 billion project.
"I don't have a readout and won't have a readout of that
conversation," Carney told reporters at a briefing after the
governors met Obama.
The agencies have until the end of April to comment on
whether the pipeline is in the national interest.
Then Secretary of State John Kerry will make a
recommendation to Obama on whether the project is in the
national interest. Obama has indicated he will make the ultimate
MEANWHILE IN NEBRASKA
Analysts have said a surprise Nebraska court ruling last
week also could give Obama a reason to pause his
administration's deliberations on the pipeline project.
The court ruled that a law that let Governor Dave Heineman
allow the Keystone XL project to pass through his state was
That may mean a small agency called the Nebraska Public
Service Commission has to review the pipeline's route through
the state, which could take several months.
But TransCanada said on Monday it was confident that the
issue would soon be resolved.
Nebraska's state's attorney general immediately appealed the
court decision on behalf of Heineman immediately after the court
ruled. That appeal puts a hold on the lower court's ruling until
a final judgment by a higher court, TransCanada said, based on
its discussions with the state.
Company spokesman James Millar said TransCanada believes the
route approved by Heineman remains valid during the appeal.
"We have dealt with many issues related to this project in
the past and are confident we can overcome this latest hurdle,"
Millar said in a statement.