Obama hints at quick Keystone decision

President Obama told governors gathered at the White House on Monday he expects to make a decision on the Keystone XL oil pipeline within the next couple of months, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said.

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Fallin and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, both Republicans, said they raised the issue in a closed question-and-answer session with the president.

"He anticipates an answer one way or another in a couple of months," Fallin said.

If the timeline holds, it means Obama would make a decision on the controversial project before the midterm elections. The pipeline has been championed by Republicans and vulnerable Senate Democrats, including Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.) and Mark Begich (Alaska), who say it would create construction jobs.

White House press secretary Jay Carney declined to comment on the conversation between the president and the governors.

"I don't have a timetable to give to you," Carney said. "I'd refer you to the State Department."

At a trade summit in Mexico last week, Obama wouldn't provide a timeline on Keystone to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has been aggressively lobbying for the project's approval.

In a press conference, Obama defended his administration’s “extensive” review of the pipeline, while acknowledging Canadian leaders had expressed concern that the yearslong process had become “a little too laborious.”

Obama said the U.S. was taking time to review the project because it “could potentially have significant impact on America's national economy and our national interests.” He also said approval would “proceed along the path that’s already been set forth."

Environmental groups have rallied against the pipeline, arguing a spill could have a disastrous environmental impact and its construction would encourage tar sands extraction. But advocates of the project say the pipeline is more eco-friendly than shipping oil by rail.

The president could make a decision shortly after the three-month public comment period that began earlier this month, following the release of a State Department report. That review found approval of Keystone would not likely contribute to an overall increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

Jindal told reporters that, if Obama was "serious about growing the economy," he would approve the Keystone pipeline.

He added that Obama seemed "to be waving the white flag of surrender" by focusing on a "minimum wage economy." Governors said Obama repeatedly offered to assist their efforts to raise the minimum wage in their states.

"The Obama economy is now the minimum wage economy," Jindal said.

The comments by the Louisiana governor, who is thought to be considering a White House bid, drew protest from Democratic governors, who said Jindal had violated bipartisan decorum.

"That's the most insane statement I've ever heard," Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, said of Jindal's remark.

Malloy said not all governors agreed with the Keystone development, and many also thought boosting the minimum wage was crucial to aiding the economy.

"There are clearly differences here," Malloy said.

— This story was updated at 2:16 p.m.