House Republican fears Obama has ‘boxed himself in’ on Keystone decision

Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), a strong backer of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, is reading the tea leaves of President Obama’s climate change-heavy inaugural speech and doesn’t like what he sees.

Terry said Wednesday that he fears Obama has “boxed himself in” on the proposed pipeline to bring Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries, which environmentalists are pressuring the White House to reject.

“I wonder if the president hasn’t backed himself into a corner on Keystone. I worry he will make a decision based on politics,” Terry said on C-SPAN, later adding, “I am worried he got too far out in his inaugural address to the nation.”

Obama, in his second inaugural speech Monday, signaled that he plans to make tackling climate change a second-term priority. But Obama has not tipped his hand about the fate of TransCanada Corp.’s proposed pipeline, which remains under federal review.

Terry made the case for Keystone, which would run through his state, arguing that it will create jobs while decreasing imports from overseas by boosting energy ties with Canada, a nation that’s already the top oil supplier to the U.S.

“It is a win ... for my state and it is a win for the country,” he said.

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) on Tuesday approved a modified route through Nebraska to avoid the ecologically sensitive Sand Hills region.

The move prompted fresh GOP pressure on President Obama to approve a federal cross-border permit for the pipeline, which is strongly supported by business groups and a number of major unions.

But opponents fear that a spill would contaminate a vital aquifer underlying the state.

More broadly, climate advocates have made stopping Keystone a priority due to greenhouse gas emissions from extracting and using oil sands.

A State Department spokeswoman hinted Tuesday that the department’s review of Keystone might slip past the end of March. The Department had earlier said it planned to complete review in the first quarter of 2013.

“We don't anticipate being able to conclude our own review before the end of the first quarter of this year,” spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.