Clinton breaks Keystone silence, says she opposes pipeline

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Hillary Clinton Opposed To Keystone Pipeline


DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday she opposes construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, breaking her longstanding silence over a project criticized by environmentalists as a threat to the planet's climate.

The Democratic presidential candidate said she decided to speak out after concluding the ongoing debate over whether the pipeline should be built had become a distraction to larger efforts to fight climate change.

That distraction, she said, is "unfortunately, from my perspective, one that interferes with our ability to move forward to deal with the other issues. Therefore I oppose it."

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Clinton breaks Keystone silence, says she opposes pipeline
Environmental activists protest against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline in front of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (SCIS) where former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is to speak at Syracuse Universitys S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications presentation of the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting in Washington, DC, on March 23, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Rapid City resident Hazel Bonner, center, looks on during the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission's public hearing at the state Capitol in Pierre, S.D., Monday, July 6, 2015. Bonner said in the hearing that she opposes the Keystone XL oil pipeline for herself, her children and her grandchildren. (AP Photo/James Nord)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a community forum on healthcare, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, at Moulton Elementary School in Des Moines, Iowa. Clinton broke her longstanding silence over the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, telling voters at a campaign stop in Iowa on Tuesday that she opposes the project assailed by environmentalists. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
WATERTOWN, SD- MAY 08: Shawnee Rae (age 8) was with a group of Native American activists from the Sisseton-Wahpeton tribe who came to Watertown to line the Obama motorcade route to protest the Keystone XL pipeline project. By visiting South Dakota, President Obama has now visited all 50 states as president. The town of Watertown was very energized and enthusiastic about his visit. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
White House press secretary Josh Earnest pauses during the daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Monday, Feb. 23, 2015. Earnest discussed funding of the Department of Homeland Security, Keystone XL Pipeline, and immigration reform, and other topics. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
The Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act is seen after being signed by Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, and which allows expansion of the pipeline to carry oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries in the U.S., at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Feb. 13, 2015. Though passage of the long-stalled legislation was a Republican campaign promise during the midterm elections last year, President Barack Obama has promised to veto the act. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Map shows the proposed Keystone pipeline route; 2c x 4 inches; 96.3 mm x 101 mm;
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., left, and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, stand together on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Feb. 13, 2015, during a ceremony before the signing of the bill authorizing expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline. Though both houses of Congress are now controlled by Republicans, Boehner and McConnell are at a standstill over provisions attached to a Homeland Security spending bill aimed at blocking President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 13: Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, signs the Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act during a ceremony in the Capitol's Rayburn Room, as from left, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., look on, February 13, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline hold signs during a demonstration across the street where U.S. President Barack Obama will attend an event in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015. U.S. Secretary John Kerry said Jan. 31 that the State Department will get results of a Keystone XL review in the next few days and that at some point in the future, he will make a recommendation on whether to approve the border-crossing pipeline. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline hold signs during a demonstration across the street where U.S. President Barack Obama will attend an event in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015. U.S. Secretary John Kerry said Jan. 31 that the State Department will get results of a Keystone XL review in the next few days and that at some point in the future, he will make a recommendation on whether to approve the border-crossing pipeline. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 29: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks about the Keystone XL pipeline during a news conference on January 29, 2015 at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. The US Senate passed a cloture vote on the Keystone XL Pipeline and is scheduled for full vote later today. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Lakota spiritual leader Chief Arvol Looking Horse attends a demonstration against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico in front of the White House in Washington, DC, on January 28, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 29: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks about the Keystone XL pipeline during a news conference on January 29, 2015 at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. The US Senate passed a cloture vote on the Keystone XL Pipeline and is scheduled for full vote later today. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Senator Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota, from left, Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, and Senator Edward 'Ed' Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, hold a news conference on Keystone XL pipeline amendments at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Senate Democratic leaders will push hard for full Senate vote on an amendment to Keystone XL pipeline legislation that puts all senators on record on their views about whether carbon emissions spark climate change, said Schumer. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Demonstrators hold a rally against the Keystone XL pipeline outside of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015. The Keystone XL pipeline has become a proxy for debates about global warming, jobs and energy security. Republicans who now control both houses of Congress have vowed to make approval of the pipeline one of their first pieces of legislation this year, a move the Obama administration opposes. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A copy of S.1, a bill to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, is arranged for a photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015. The U.S. Senate on Monday, Jan. 12, advanced legislation that would approve the Keystone XL pipeline with a procedural vote that sets up what may become one of the most extensive discussions of energy policy in the chamber in years. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, center, speaks during a news conference with Senator John Hoeven, a Republican from North Dakota, left, and Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, after a cloture vote on the Keystone XL pipeline bill at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. U.S. Senate Republicans are poised to push through a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, achieving a long sought policy objective that probably will be thwarted by a veto from President Barack Obama. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, center, smiles as she speaks about Keystone XL, accompanied by Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., left, sponsor of the Keystone XL pipeline bill, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. smiles as he returns to his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, after passing a bipartisan bill approving construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The 62-36 vote advanced a top priority of the newly empowered GOP, which championed the legislation despite a presidential veto threat. The bill authorizes construction of the nearly 1,200-mile pipeline to carry oil primarily from Canada’s tar sands to Gulf Coast refineries. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, takes the elevator after leaving the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, following the Keystone XL pipeline vote. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., with Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., turns to leave at the end of a news conference about Keystone XL, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Republican-controlled Senate moved Thursday toward passage of a bipartisan bill approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, defying a presidential veto threat and setting up the first of many expected battles with the White House over energy and the environment. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., sponsor of the Keystone XL pipeline bill, right, joined by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, after winning a critical procedural vote on the Keystone XL Pipeline bill. The Republican-controlled Senate moved toward passage of a bipartisan bill approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, getting enough votes to overcome a filibuster, 62-35, but it remains five votes short of a veto-proof majority. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., takes the elevator after leaving the Senate chamber following the Keystone XL pipeline vote on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio strides from the House chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Nov. 14, 2014, after the Republican-controlled House passed legislation approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The bill's passage now sets the stage for a showdown in the Senate. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio strides from the House floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Nov. 14, 2014, after the Republican-controlled House passed legislation approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The bill's passage now sets the stage for a showdown in the Senate. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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Clinton's announcement came as she has ceded ground in some polls to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has long opposed the project. It also followed the appearance of protesters at some of her recent campaign events holding signs that read, "I'm Ready for Hillary to say no KXL."

The former secretary of state had previously said she shouldn't take a position on the issue, because she didn't want to interfere with the Obama administration as it considers whether to allow construction of a pipeline that would transport oil from Canada's tar sands to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.

The announcement was viewed with disappointment in Canada, where Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said as recently as last month that he was confident the next U.S. president would approve the project.

"This is not a debate between Canada and the U.S.," said Stephen Lecce, a spokesman for Harper. "We know the American people support the project. We will not engage in presidential primary debates."

Less reluctant was Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who said on Twitter that Clinton's decision proves she "favors environmental extremists over U.S. jobs."

Spurred on by environmental activists and liberals who play a key role in the Democratic primaries and vigorously oppose the pipeline project, Clinton had expressed impatience in recent weeks over the Obama administration's drawn-out deliberations.

Her campaign said the White House was briefed on Clinton's position prior to her comments and she privately made her opposition to the pipeline known when she discussed her plans with labor officials in recent weeks.

Clinton is scheduled to raise money in California over three days beginning Sunday and was sure to face questions from donors on why she had yet to stake out a position.

Tom Steyer, a leading environmentalist and top Democratic donor, said it was a "clear example of people power overcoming the special interests" and credited Clinton for joining with "thousands of Americans calling on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline in favor of building an American economy powered by clean energy."

Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, said Clinton was being "blatantly dishonest" when she said her role at the State Department had prevented her from taking a position. Concern about Vice President Joe Biden political future played a role, too, he said.

"Clearly, Hillary Clinton's rapid decline in the polls and the prospect of the vice president entering the race caused her to change course," Priebus said in a statement.

Clinton announced her decision moments after Pope Francis arrived in Washington at the start of a closely watched visit to the United States. Her opposition came in response to a question from a Drake University student attending a forum on prescription drugs.

"I was in a unique position having been secretary of state, having started this process and not wanting to interfere with the ongoing decision making," Clinton said. "I thought this would be decided by now and therefore I could tell you whether I agree or disagree. But it hasn't been decided and I feel now I've got a responsibility to you and other voters who ask me about this."

Clinton's main rivals for the Democratic nomination have campaigned against the project. Sanders, who has surpassed Clinton in some polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, said in a statement he was "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."

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who trails Clinton and Sanders by a wide margin in polls, used the moment to criticize the Democratic front-runner, saying her late-breaking opposition to Keystone is akin to how she arrived at her positions on gay marriage, offering driver's licenses for people not living in the country legally and the Syrian refugee crisis.

"On issue after issue," O'Malley said in a statement, "Secretary Clinton has followed - not forged - public opinion. Leadership is about stating where you stand on critical issues, regardless of how they poll or focus group."

Clinton said she would roll out a plan aimed at fighting climate change in a few days and noted proposals released earlier in the campaign that would bolster solar energy and produce more renewable energy.

She said the nation had "a lot of work to do" and that shifting to more renewable energy would create jobs.

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Thomas reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.

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Follow Ken Thomas and Catherine Lucey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/KThomasDC and https://twitter.com/catherine-lucey

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