WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- With environmental activists telling the U.S. government to shun the Keystone XL pipeline, the White House shifted the focus to "ideological" influence.
The Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network and more than a dozen environmental campaign groups held "protest vigils" Monday to express frustration with a State Department assessment on the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
TransCanada submitted its application to build the pipeline more than five years ago. It needs federal approval as a cross-border pipeline.
President Obama said he'd weigh the project against its environmental footprint and the State Department last week said it saw few problems with the pipeline in that regard.
Amanda Starbuck, climate director for Rainforest Action Network, said in a statement protesters took to the streets in more than 270 cities to "demonstrate their personal opposition to Keystone XL." Groups like hers say there were problems cited by the State Department that suggest the pipeline fails the climate test.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters during Monday's daily press briefing outside influence should not sway the president's decision.
"It's important that everyone let that process be carried out appropriately on the merits rather than allowing it to be subjected to ideological or political influence," he said.
Republican critics of Obama backed legislation last year that would strip him of the authority to approve the pipeline.
Supporters say the 1,179-mile oil pipeline from Canada would protect the regional economy from overseas market turmoil. Opponents say the type of crude oil from Canada is too carbon intensive to produce and more likely to linger in the environment if spilled.