Clinton stands against controversial Keystone pipeline23 september 2015, 14:11
After declining for months to announce her position on a major Canada-to-US oil pipeline, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that she is opposed to the controversial project, AFP reports.
As secretary of state, Clinton presided over years of study of the Keystone XL pipeline that would send Canadian crude oil to US refineries. The project is vehemently opposed by environmental groups and liberal Democrats.
Clinton had used her former position as a rationale for not weighing in, saying she wanted President Barack Obama's administration to finalize its assessment on the project.
But during a campaign event in Iowa, she described Keystone as "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 and deal with other issues."
"Therefore, I oppose it," she said.
The 1,179-mile (1,900-kilometer) TransCanada-built pipeline would transport crude from oil sands in energy-rich Alberta province to a network of pipelines that reach across the United States to the shores of the Gulf of Mexico.
Environmentalists have strongly opposed it because the crude comes from what they describe as "tar sands," which require a more carbon-intense process of extraction and processing, an issue Clinton addressed at a panel discussion with the Des Moines Register newspaper.
"I don't think we need to have a pipeline bringing very dirty oil, exploiting the tar sands in western Canada, across our border," Clinton said.
Because the project crosses a border, the US State Department must give its approval first, but the case is still being studied -- nearly seven years after TransCanada initiated its request.
Senator Bernie Sanders, who is challenging Clinton for the Democratic nomination, has been opposed to the project for years and has chided Clinton for her indecision.
"I'm glad that Hillary Clinton finally has made a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline and I welcome her opposition," Sanders posted on Twitter.
Response from the Republican presidential contenders was scathing.
"Hillary Clinton finally says what we already knew. She favors environmental extremists over US jobs," former Florida governor Jeb Bush tweeted.
Several Republican rivals followed suit, including Ohio Governor John Kasich, who said "America needs the Keystone Pipeline and the jobs that come with it."
Obama has long favored an "all-of-the-above" approach of expanding oil and gas production while investing in green energy. In late 2012 he embraced the southern end of the pipeline in a campaign appearance in the oil depot town of Cushing, Oklahoma.
Environmental groups have long stood opposed, and they cheered Clinton's declaration.
"This reversal is a testament to efforts of farmers, ranchers, indigenous people and environmentalists who came together to stop this pipeline," said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth Action.
"Now is the time for President Obama to reject the pipeline outright."
As for where Obama stands, the White House would simply say that "this is a policy process that continues to be under way."