- REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton finally weighed in Tuesday on the Keystone XL Pipeline after months of awkwardly refusing to do that.
And she sided with environmentalists on the issue.
“I oppose it,” Clinton said.
The Democratic presidential front-runner called the pipeline a “distraction” from the larger efforts needed to combat climate change.
“I’ve got a responsibility to you and voters who ask me about this,” she said, according to a CNN transcript. “I think it’s 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. And unfortunately from my perspective, one that interferes with our ability to move forward with all the other issues.”
Clinton previously – and repeatedly – declined to answer questions about Keystone, citing her role in the pipeline’s State Department-approval process.
But last week, Clinton signaled that she was anxious to soon weigh in on the pipeline, which is backed by Republicans but criticized by liberals in her own party.
Her announcement comes as she’s facing tougher-than-expected competition in the 2016 Democratic primary. US Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), surging in many of the early-state primary polls, has highlighted her public indecision on the issue.
Sanders released a statement Tuesday afternoon praising the fact that Clinton “finally” made the decision to oppose Keystone.
“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. “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, another Clinton rival, released a statement that even more directly implied that Clinton was simply following political winds instead of leading on the issue:
— Lis Smith (@Lis_Smith) September 22, 2015
Meanwhile, Republicans are already starting to pounce on Clinton’s announcement as a potential general-election weakness.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush tweeted that Clinton “finally says what we already knew” and that she “favors environmental extremists over US jobs.”
The next occupant of the White House could have a significant effect on whether the Keystone pipeline, currently undergoing a review process, is constructed. The Republican-controlled Senate approved a bill earlier this year to move forward with the pipeline, but did not have the votes to override US President Barack Obama’s veto.
For their part, environmentalists hailed Clinton for finally taking a position on Keystone.
“Today’s news is a huge win for our movement,” the group 350 Action said in a statement, “and ups the pressure even more on President Obama to reject the Keystone pipeline once and for all.”