Hillary Clinton Comes Out Against Keystone XL

After months of avoiding the subject, Clinton says "no."

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Hillary Clinton said at an event here on Tuesday that she opposes the Keystone XL pipeline.

"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," Clinton said.

"Therefore, I oppose it," she said. "I don't think it's in the best interest of what we need to do to combat climate change."

Clinton was secretary of state when the Obama administration began considering whether to grant a permit for the massive pipeline from Canada to Texas. Because the pipeline crosses an international border, the decision about whether the pipeline is in the national interest lies with the State Department. Clinton has been tight-lipped about it on the campaign trail, saying she would wait for President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry's decision before weighing in.

But last week, Clinton said she was going to make an announcement "soon."

"I'm putting the White House on notice," the former secretary of state said at the time. "I'm going to tell you what I think soon, because I can't wait."

An aide to the Clinton campaign told The Huffington Post on background that Clinton had refrained from making her position public because, as the former secretary of state, "she is in a unique position compared to other candidates."

"As she has said previously, she wanted to respect the president's timetable for making a decision and give her successor, Secretary Kerry, the space to conduct a thorough process," said the aide. "However, when she launched her campaign earlier this year, she expected a decision would have been made before now. Now Clinton feels she owes it to the American people to make it clear where she stands on this issue, as she has heard from Americans across the country who care deeply about this issue and who want to know the opinions of the candidates running for office."

The aide said that the Clinton campaign briefed the White House on her position before she came out publicly.

Clinton said in her Tuesday speech that she will offer a "plan for a North American approach to fighting climate change and clean energy" in the coming days.

"For me, we need to be transitioning from fossil fuels," she said, but added that it will "take time" to transition to renewable energy. "That's why I led with my two big proposals: I want to see us in my first term install a half a billion solar panels, and in my second term have enough clean power to run all the homes in America," she said.

Fellow Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he was glad Clinton had spoken out on the pipeline, but noted that he's been openly opposed to it for some time. “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 in a statement. "Clearly it would be absurd to encourage the extraction and transportation of some of the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet."

Another Democratic contender, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, criticized Clinton for taking so long to make her views known. "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," said O'Malley. "Leadership is about stating where you stand on critical issues, regardless of how they poll or focus group."

Environmental groups who have led the campaign against Keystone were pleased to finally hear Clinton take a position.

“Make no mistake: Today is clear proof that social movements move politics," said May Boeve, executive director of 350 Action. "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."

A spokesman for TransCanada, the company seeking to build the pipeline, did not directly address Clinton's comments but said in a statement the company's focus "remains on securing a permit to build Keystone XL."

"The fundamental argument for Keystone XL has been and remains -- the U.S. imports millions of barrels of oil every day, so where do Americans want their oil to come from? Do they want it from Iran and Venezuela -- where American values of freedom and democracy are not shared -- or do they want Canadian and American crude oil transported through Keystone XL?" said spokesman Davis Sheremata.

Samantha-Jo Roth reported from Des Moines and Kate Sheppard reported from Washington.

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