After months of stalling, Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says she opposes the construction of the project. The former secretary of state previously had dodged questions about her position on the pipeline, citing her role in reviewing the project at the State Department and saying the ongoing review needs to run its course. She made the announcement during a campaign event in Iowa on Tuesday. The project, though, put Clinton in a difficult political position, as it pits environmental activists who oppose it against labor unions who support it. Clinton’s stance risks a backlash from labor unions and others. The timing of her statement was curious — she made her remarks just after Pope Francis arrived in Washington at the start of a closely watched visit to the United States.
The Obama administration continues to review the project, whose federal consideration has dragged on for years. While Clinton’s remarks could complicate that process, they also appear to run against comments the former secretary of state made while holding that office. In 2010, then-Secretary Clinton indicated potential support for the project as she told a San Francisco audience, “We’re either going to be dependent on dirty oil from the [Persian] Gulf or dirty oil from Canada.” Clinton said she thought the matter would be decided by now.
But it hasn’t been decided and I feel now I’ve got a responsibility,” she said. Clinton went on to say the pipeline is a “distraction” from important work to be done on climate change, and “one that interferes with our ability to move forward with all the other issues — therefore I oppose it.”And I oppose it because I don’t think it’s in the best interest of what we need to do to combat climate change. I will be rolling out in a few days my plan for a North American approach to fighting climate change and clean energy. Because for me, we need to be transitioning from fossil fuels—I know it will take time—to clean renewable energy.”
Clinton’s primary competitor Senator Bernie Sanders applauded Clinton for finally announcing her opposition to the project.
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. Clearly it would be absurd to encourage the extraction and transportation of some of the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet,” he said in a statement.
Late last week, Clinton promised that her decision would be coming “soon” and signaled that she has become impatient with the White House for delaying its final verdict on the matter.
I have been waiting for the administration to make a decision,” she said last week in Concord, NH. “I thought I owed them that. I worked in the administration. I started the process that is supposed to lead to a decision. I can’t wait too much longer. And I am putting the White House on notice. I’m gonna tell you what I think soon because I can’t wait. I thought they would have it decided way, you know, way by now and they haven’t.”
Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley also attacked Clinton for being too slow to take a stance. “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,” he said. “Leadership is about stating where you stand on critical issues, regardless of how they poll or focus group.”