Barack Obama's lofty inaugural ideals run into reality

Barack Obama

The White House has so far refused to take a position on the Supreme Court case.

For environmental groups, Obama's next best chance to make good on his inaugural address is a looming decision on the Keystone XL pipeline running from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

Obama blocked the pipeline last year, citing uncertainty over the project's route through environmentally sensitive land in Nebraska. But on Tuesday, the state's Republican governor, Dave Heineman, gave his approval to a revised route for the pipeline, a widely anticipated move that nonetheless added to the political pressure for the Obama administration to approve or reject the new route without delay.

"If we are going to get serious about climate change, opening the spigot to a pipeline that will export up to 830,000 barrels of the dirtiest oil on the planet to foreign markets stands as a bad idea,'' said Anthony Swift of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Republicans and many business groups say the pipeline project would help achieve energy independence.

The State Department, which has federal jurisdiction over the $7 billion pipeline because it begins in Canada, said Tuesday that it would not be able to conclude its review during the first quarter of the year.

White House officials sought to look beyond Keystone, with aides saying Tuesday that the president may also pursue executive actions to fulfill his pledge to tackle climate change.

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