Hillary Clinton Comes Out Against the Keystone Pipeline, After Long Avoiding a Position

The Democratic front-runner has been wary of going public with a position during her campaign. Until now.

Hi­llary Clin­ton said Tues­day that she op­poses con­struc­tion of the Key­stone XL oil-sands pipeline, an an­nounce­ment that ends years of de­clin­ing to weigh in on the con­tro­ver­sial pro­ject, which en­vir­on­ment­al­ists are bat­tling hard to de­feat.

Clin­ton’s com­ments came just as most of Wash­ing­ton’s at­ten­tion was turned to the ar­rival of Pope Fran­cis in D.C. Ac­cord­ing to a copy of her re­marks provided by her cam­paign, Clin­ton said, “I think it is im­per­at­ive that we look at the Key­stone Pipeline as what I be­lieve it is—a dis­trac­tion from the im­port­ant work we have to do to com­bat cli­mate change, and un­for­tu­nately, from my per­spect­ive, one that in­ter­feres with our abil­ity to move for­ward to deal with all the oth­er is­sues. There­fore, I op­pose it.”

Clin­ton’s an­swer came in re­sponse to a ques­tion from a Drake Uni­versity stu­dent who said that cli­mate change was an im­port­ant is­sue for her, and that she op­posed the Key­stone XL pipeline be­cause of it.

The rev­el­a­tion of her po­s­i­tion in Iowa will likely help the Demo­crat­ic White House can­did­ate cor­ral sup­port among green act­iv­ists, but the pro­ject is sup­por­ted by a large num­ber of labor uni­ons, an­oth­er key part of the Demo­crat­ic base. Speak­ing to jobs spe­cific­ally Tues­day, Clin­ton said she wants to im­ple­ment a policy that would “put thou­sands of Amer­ic­ans to work” fix­ing old, leaky pipelines and re­pair­ing rail­cars, rail beds, and rail tracks that cur­rently trans­port oil. She said there are “a lot more jobs, from my per­spect­ive, on a North Amer­ic­an clean en­ergy agenda than you would ever get from one pipeline cross­ing the bor­der.”

Tran­sCanada Corp.’s pro­posed mult­i­bil­lion-dol­lar pro­ject to bring crude oil from Al­berta’s oil sands to Gulf Coast re­finer­ies re­mains un­der Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion re­view, but Pres­id­ent Obama has made sev­er­al com­ments crit­ic­al of the pro­ject, fuel­ing wide­spread ex­pect­a­tion that he’ll ul­ti­mately re­ject it.

Clin­ton’s team tipped off the White House that she was about to come out in op­pos­i­tion to the pro­ject, a cam­paign aide said. “The White House was briefed on Clin­ton’s po­s­i­tion on the Key­stone pro­ject pri­or to her com­ments today,” the aide said.

Her cam­paign also said that labor uni­ons knew what was com­ing. “In the course of dis­cuss­ing her plans for in­creas­ing in­vest­ment in en­ergy in­fra­struc­ture with labor of­fi­cials in re­cent weeks, she privately made her op­pos­i­tion to the pipeline known to them as well,” the aide said.

Bernie Sanders and Mar­tin O’Mal­ley, who are both run­ning against Clin­ton for the Demo­crat­ic White House nom­in­a­tion, are already op­pon­ents of the pro­ject that has been at the heart of a high-pro­file battle over cli­mate change and en­ergy dur­ing much of Obama’s pres­id­ency.

The an­nounce­ment is a break with Clin­ton’s pri­or re­sponses in 2014 and this year. For in­stance, in late Ju­ly, Clin­ton re­ferred to the on­go­ing State De­part­ment re­view, stat­ing: “I will re­frain from com­ment­ing be­cause I had a lead­ing role in get­ting that pro­cess star­ted and I think that we have to let it run its course.”

But last week Clin­ton sug­ges­ted she was tir­ing of the long fed­er­al re­view. “I can’t wait too much longer. And I am put­ting the White House on no­tice. I am go­ing to tell you what I think soon be­cause I can’t wait,” she said in New Hamp­shire, ac­cord­ing to mul­tiple re­ports.

The Clin­ton cam­paign aide sought to ex­plain why Clin­ton changed her mind about tak­ing a po­s­i­tion while the State De­part­ment-led re­view of Tran­sCanada’s per­mit ap­plic­a­tion re­mains open.

“As she has said pre­vi­ously, she wanted to re­spect the pres­id­ent’s timetable for mak­ing a de­cision and give her suc­cessor, Sec­ret­ary [John] Kerry, the space to con­duct a thor­ough pro­cess. However, when she launched her cam­paign earli­er this year, she ex­pec­ted a de­cision would have been made be­fore now,” the aide said, adding that Clin­ton “feels she owes it to the Amer­ic­an people to make it clear where she stands.”

Clin­ton’s de­cision marks the second time in re­cent weeks that she has taken a stance pop­u­lar with green act­iv­ists on a con­tro­ver­sial en­ergy is­sue.

In Au­gust, she came out against oil-and-gas drilling in the Arc­tic Ocean off Alaska’s coast, break­ing with the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, which has giv­en oil gi­ant Roy­al Dutch Shell per­mis­sion to drill an ex­plor­at­ory well.

Clin­ton’s new Key­stone stance drew quick cheers from en­vir­on­ment­al­ists.

“We are thrilled that Sec­ret­ary Clin­ton has con­tin­ued to build on her long­time en­vir­on­ment­al lead­er­ship by pub­licly op­pos­ing the dirty and dan­ger­ous Key­stone XL tar-sands pipeline. This is ex­actly the kind of lead­er­ship we need in or­der to leave a healthy plan­et for our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren,” said Tiernan Sit­ten­feld of the League of Con­ser­va­tion Voters Ac­tion Fund in a state­ment.

But Clin­ton also re­ceived im­me­di­ate at­tacks from the Amer­ic­an Pet­ro­leum In­sti­tute, a power­ful lob­by­ing group that has for years spent heav­ily to pro­mote the pro­ject.

“Hil­lary Clin­ton’s de­cision to op­pose Key­stone is a missed op­por­tun­ity to seize the true po­ten­tial of our en­ergy renais­sance,” said Jack Ger­ard, the group’s pres­id­ent. “It is most un­for­tu­nate for Amer­ic­an work­ers and con­sumers that she has joined the forces of delay and deni­al.”

Sanders, a long­time pro­gress­ive who is giv­ing Clin­ton an un­ex­pec­tedly strong chal­lenge for the nom­in­a­tion, sought to em­phas­ize that he is a long-stand­ing op­pon­ent of the pipeline and that Clin­ton is only now stak­ing out a po­s­i­tion.

The Ver­mont sen­at­or noted that he has “vig­or­ously op­posed the Key­stone pipeline from the be­gin­ning,” adding, “I am glad that Sec­ret­ary Clin­ton fi­nally has made a de­cision and I wel­come her op­pos­i­tion to the pipeline.”

O’Mal­ley also sought to por­tray Clin­ton as a lag­gard. “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,” the former Mary­land gov­ernor said in com­ments emailed to re­port­ers shortly after Clin­ton an­nounced her stance.

The State De­part­ment is lead­ing the re­view of the pro­ject—which would carry hun­dreds of thou­sands of bar­rels of oil per day—be­cause it crosses an in­ter­na­tion­al bound­ary.

Bey­ond its polit­ic­al im­pact in the Demo­crat­ic primar­ies, Clin­ton’s po­s­i­tion is im­port­ant for the fu­ture of the pro­ject if she’s elec­ted pres­id­ent. Tran­sCanada CEO Russ Girl­ing has said the com­pany will con­tin­ue to seek per­mis­sion to build the pipeline even if Obama re­jects it. Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ates for pres­id­ent sup­port the pro­ject.

Tran­sCanada, in a state­ment Tues­day, said the com­pany re­mains fo­cused on win­ning fed­er­al ap­prov­al. “Our fo­cus re­mains on se­cur­ing a per­mit to build Key­stone XL. 17,000 pages of sci­entif­ic study have con­cluded that Key­stone XL would have min­im­al im­pact on the en­vir­on­ment,” said spokes­man Dav­is Sheremata.

Clin­ton’s new stance is the latest twist in the half-dec­ade long fight over Key­stone. En­vir­on­ment­al­ists, es­pe­cially Ver­mont act­iv­ist Bill McK­ib­ben and his group 350.org, helped trans­form Key­stone from an ob­scure bur­eau­crat­ic per­mit­ting scuffle in­to a high-pro­file cam­paign.

Some evid­ence of that meta­morph­os­is: Clin­ton, while sec­ret­ary of State, made a now-fam­ous com­ment in 2010 that she was “in­clined” to ap­prove Key­stone. But in sub­sequent months and years, the battle be­came far more heated and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion slow-walked the re­view.

The tussle has been atyp­ic­al in the Belt­way, fo­cus­ing not on le­gis­la­tion or a broad­er reg­u­lat­ory ques­tion, but rather on a single pro­ject. It has in­cluded large Wash­ing­ton, D.C. protests and civil dis­obedi­ence.

“Make no mis­take: Today is clear proof that so­cial move­ments move polit­ics. Thanks to thou­sands of ded­ic­ated act­iv­ists around the coun­try who spent years put­ting their bod­ies on the line to pro­tect our cli­mate, we’ve taken a top-tier pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate’s ‘in­clin­a­tion to ap­prove’ Key­stone XL, and turned it in­to yet an­oth­er call for re­jec­tion,” said May Bo­eve, ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of 350 Ac­tion, the polit­ic­al arm of 350.org.

En­vir­on­ment­al­ists ar­gue that Key­stone, if built, would be a ma­jor cata­lyst for growth of car­bon-in­tens­ive oil-sands pro­duc­tion in Al­berta, site of massive hy­dro­car­bon re­sources where pro­duc­tion is around 2 mil­lion bar­rels per day.

Sup­port­ers of the pro­ject say it will have little ef­fect on the rate of oil-sands pro­duc­tion in­creases over time, cit­ing oth­er op­tions, like rail­ways, for get­ting the product to mar­ket.

Obama has said he will not ap­prove Key­stone un­less he is sure it would not “sig­ni­fic­antly worsen” green­house-gas emis­sions.

A ma­jor State De­part­ment ana­lys­is in early 2014 buoyed pipeline sup­port­ers, con­clud­ing that the pro­ject would have little ef­fect on fu­ture oil-sands pro­duc­tion levels and hence little green­house-gas im­pact.

The re­port’s au­thors also cited what they con­sidered an un­likely scen­ario that could change that con­clu­sion: a big, sus­tained drop in prices that could hinder the growth of oil-sands de­vel­op­ment without Key­stone, at least if oth­er pipeline pro­jects don’t go for­ward either.

However, in early Feb­ru­ary of this year, the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency toldthe State De­part­ment that its cli­mate-change ana­lys­is of the im­pact of lower prices should be giv­en “ad­di­tion­al weight” in light of the sharp drop in oil prices, which began in the sum­mer of 2014.

Resource: http://www.nationaljournal.com/s/73635/hillary-clinton-comes-out-against-keystone-pipeline-after-months-non-answers

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