Hillary Clinton declined Monday to weigh in on the Obama administration’s ongoing deliberations over the Keystone XL oil pipeline, avoiding an issue that has become a litmus test for climate activists.
After launching the first part of her agenda aimed at combating climate change, the former secretary of state told reporters in Iowa she “will refrain from commenting [on Keystone] because I had a leading role in getting that process started and we have to let it run its course.”
Clinton said that during her time as President Barack Obama's top diplomat, she “put together a very thorough, deliberative, evidence-based process to evaluate the environmental impact” of the proposed pipeline, which would run from Alberta, Canada, to Nebraska.
Before launching her presidential campaign, Clinton refused to comment on the pipeline permit approval process, saying she didn't want to preempt or influence the process. Monday was the first time she’d been asked since entering the race in April.
Other candidates running for the Democratic nomination have seized on Clinton’s caution and attacked her for refusing to take a definitive stance.
“I have helped lead the opposition against the Keystone pipeline,” Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said earlier this month as Clinton visited Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill. “I don’t believe we should be excavating or transporting some of the dirtiest fuel on this planet. I think Secretary Clinton has not been clear on her views on that issue.”
Minutes after Clinton spoke Monday, Democratic presidential candidate and former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley's campaign criticized Clinton for what it described as a lack of leadership. “Governor O'Malley is opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline because we can't move to a clean energy future if we continue to rely on dirty, short-term fossil fuel fixes,” deputy campaign manager Lis Smith said in a statement. “Real leadership is about forging public opinion on issues like Keystone—not following it. Every Democrat should follow his lead and take a stand to commit to ending our reliance on fossil fuels.”
Clinton acknowledged that the pipeline is a politicized issue and stressed that she is in a unique position.
“No other presidential candidate was secretary of state when this process started,” she said.