A decision by the Nebraska government to sanction the route for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline pushed the measure to Washington. The U.S. government needs to sign off on the project because it would cross the U.S.-Canadian border.
The Sierra Club said that Executive Director Michael Brune and President Allison Chin were among about 50 people arrested Wednesday while protesting in front of the White House.
Paul Rauber, senior editor for Sierra magazine, said the arrests were "uniquely heartwarming."
Pipeline company TransCanada said it's waiting for an environmental assessment from the U.S. State Department. Secretary of State John Kerry said following meetings with Canadian officials that a decision was expected from his office soon.
Supporters of the project say the pipeline would be a source of economic stimulus while at the same time ensuring regional energy security. Detractors say the potential environmental risks outweigh any benefits.
When Kerry was nominated in December, Brune issued a statement calling on him to consider carefully "critical decisions on the Keystone XL pipeline and the international financing of dirty energy."