POLITICS
01/20/2015 09:46 pm ET Updated Jan 21, 2015

President Obama And The Pipeline That Shall Not Be Named

WASHINGTON -- The proposed Keystone XL pipeline is pretty much the only thing Congress is talking about. The House passed legislation that would force approval over the executive decision-making process in the first week back in session, and the Senate is expected to pass its own bill in the next week.

But Obama didn't so much as utter the "K" word in his Tuesday State of the Union address. While he praised the fact that the United States is less dependent on foreign oil and is now "number one in oil and gas," he only obliquely referred to Keystone in his discussion of the need for infrastructure investments.

"Twenty-first century businesses need 21st century infrastructure -- modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest internet. Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this. So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline," he said. "Let's pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come."

Environmentalists said they see the line as an attempt to pivot the conversation away from Keystone and toward other projects.

But at some point -- and probably sooner rather than later -- the Obama administration will have to make a decision on the pipeline. The White House told agencies last week that they have until Feb. 2 to submit their comments on the proposal. A decision from the State Department would come sometime after that.

Some environmentalists are taking the remark as a positive signal.

“In recent months, President Obama has cleared the way for rejecting Keystone XL by dismissing the best arguments that tar sands proponents have got -- and tonight he’s continued the drumbeat," said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

This story has been updated to include Brune's comments.

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