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Obama Pressed On Keystone XL Pipeline By Republicans, Remains Noncommittal

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In this March 22, 2012 file photo, President Barack Obama arrives at the TransCanada Stillwater Pipe Yard in Cushing, Okla. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
In this March 22, 2012 file photo, President Barack Obama arrives at the TransCanada Stillwater Pipe Yard in Cushing, Okla. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Republican lawmakers pressed President Barack Obama on the Keystone XL pipeline in a meeting on Wednesday. Initial reports suggested Obama would approve the pipeline, but he did not offer a definitive answer.

The New York Times reported the president "indicated" support of the Canadian oil sands pipeline, according to statements from Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), but he "did not say outright" if his administration would approve the project's permit.

BuzzFeed touched off a flurry of reactions after posting a story suggesting Obama had told the House Republicans that he would drop his objections to the pipeline.

The White House quickly tamped down the rumor however, telling HuffPost in an emailed statement, Obama "did not indicate either way" if he would approve the pipeline and the assessment is ongoing.

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) told reporters after the meeting, it "didn't come across that he's going to do that," when asked if the president indicated he would approve the Keystone pipeline. "He didn't reject it, nor did he embrace it," offered Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.).

Other House members in attendance remained optimistic that Obama would approve the pipeline. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) told reporters, "He knows where people are that need jobs, so we're hoping that he'll yield to those who need jobs and benefit by the pipeline."

Jeff Gohringer, National Press Secretary for the League of Conservation Voters, told HuffPost, "These Republicans are grasping at straws. They may be confused, but one thing that’s clear is that the Keystone pipeline would only create 35 permanent jobs." According to the State Department's recent report on the pipeline, the project could possibly support 42,100 jobs over the course of several years, but only 35 positions would remain after the construction period ends.

Yet the pipeline's builder remains confident Obama will green-light the project. "The case for Keystone XL is strong -- and grows stronger the longer it is delayed," Shawn Howard, a TransCanada spokesman, said in an email message reacting to the afternoon news scrum. "We continue to believe that Keystone XL will be approved," he added.

Republicans previously pushed Obama on the pipeline in late 2011, with a congressional measure forcing the president to render a decision within two months. In denying the pipeline's initial permit application in early 2012, Obama blamed the Republicans for forcing him to act ahead of a completed environmental review.

In February 2012, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) wrote in a letter to the president, "I would urge you to change course and expeditiously approve the pipeline permit as soon as the application has been filed."

The proposed international segment of the Keystone pipeline -- which requires State Department approval -- would carry diluted oil sands bitumen nearly 1,200-miles from Alberta to southeastern Nebraska. A southern segment currently under construction would carry the crude product on to Gulf Coast refineries.

Environmentalists have reacted strongly to the proposed pipeline, arguing increased extraction and consumption of Canada's carbon-intensive oil sands will increase global carbon-dioxide emissions and exacerbate the effects of climate change. In a 2012 New York Times op-ed, NASA scientist James Hansen argued, "If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate."

HuffPost's Sam Stein, Sabrina Siddiqui and Tom Zeller Jr. contributed to this report.

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