After months of saying she didn’t want to step into the State Department businesses by issuing her opinion on the Keystone XL pipeline, the former secretary of State decided she’s against it.
“I think it is imperative that we look at the Keystone pipeline as what I believe it is — a distraction from important work we have to do on climate change,” Clinton told a community forum in Des Moines, Iowa, where she lags behind Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the polls.
“And unfortunately from my perspective, one that interferes with our ability to move forward with all the other issues,” Clinton added. “Therefore, I oppose it.”
She elaborated that she was “in a unique position as secretary of State at the start of this process, and not wanting to interfere with ongoing decision-making that the president and Secretary Kerry have to do in order to make whatever final decisions they need.”
“So I thought this would be decided by now, and therefore I could tell you whether I agree or disagree, but it hasn’t been decided, and I feel now I’ve got a responsibility to you and voters who ask me about this,” Clinton said.
She later told the Des Moines Register editorial board that she wasn’t expecting the Keystone question but “clearly, the time had come for me to answer the question.”
Bernie welcomed Hillary to the anti-pipeline party.
“As a senator who has vigorously opposed the Keystone pipeline from the beginning, I am glad that Secretary Clinton finally has made a decision and I welcome her opposition to the pipeline,” Sanders said in a statement after Clinton’s remarks. “Clearly it would be absurd to encourage the extraction and transportation of some of the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet.”
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley hit harder, calling Clinton a follower instead of a leader.
“On issue after issue — marriage equality, drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants, children fleeing violence in Central America, the Syrian refugee crisis, and now the Keystone pipeline, Secretary Clinton has followed — not forged — public opinion. Leadership is about stating where you stand on critical issues, regardless of how they poll or focus group,” O’Malley said.
“The American people want a president who will lead—not just someone who will tell them what they want to hear,” he added. “On many of these issues, I staked out positions and got things done—even when they were politically unpopular. That’s what’s at stake in this election: the difference between conviction and convenience, and the gulf between actions and words.”
At the end of July, Clinton was asked in New Hampshire about Keystone and said it wouldn’t be appropriate for her to answer the question because she “was in a position to set this in motion” as secretary of State. The project is caught up in the State Department review process as it crosses into the United States from Canada.
“I am not going to second guess [President Obama],” she replied. “I want to wait and see what he and Secretary Kerry decide. If it is undecided when I become president, I will answer your question.”
Sanders chided her at the time for being indecisive on the pipeline.
Today, Republican National Committee Reince Priebus took shots at her decision to finally announce a decision.
“Hillary Clinton insisted her work on Keystone at the State Department prevented her from taking a position on the pipeline, and now we know she was being blatantly dishonest,” Priebus said. “Clearly, Hillary Clinton’s rapid decline in the polls and the prospect of the vice president entering the race caused her to change course. But instead of backing a job-creating project the American public overwhelmingly supports, Hillary Clinton has sided with extreme special interests, reinforcing how out of touch she is and that she’ll say or do anything to get elected.”
Sen. Cory Garnder (R-Colo.) needled at Clinton: “Seven years after the application to build the Keystone XL Pipeline was filed, Hillary Clinton made the ‘Hard Choice’ to side with radical environmentalists against American jobs.”
“Constructing the Keystone XL Pipeline would create jobs here at home, move us further towards North American energy independence, and help reduce our need for oil from overseas,” Gardner said. “I’m disappointed by Hillary Clinton’s choice.”
The Sierra Club, though, cheered Clinton for “standing against” the “toxic” pipeline.
“Secretary Clinton has spoken about her commitment to tackling the climate crisis, so opposing this dirty, dangerous project is exactly what should be expected and exactly what is necessary for any credible climate champion,” executive director Michael Brune said.
“Now, as the opposition to Keystone XL mounts, the decision remains with the president, who has pledged to reject this project if it contributes to the climate crisis,” Brune added. “He has all the evidence he needs to do just that and reject Keystone XL once and for all.”