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As Pope Lands, Hillary Clinton Says She Opposes Keystone XL Pipeline

Hillary Clinton asks protesters opposed to the Keystone XL oil pipeline to stop disrupting her campaign event Friday in Portland, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
Hillary Clinton asks protesters opposed to the Keystone XL oil pipeline to stop disrupting her campaign event Friday in Portland, Maine.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has come out against the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline. It's something she has spent months avoiding taking a position on — and her announcement coincided with the mass media event of Pope Francis' landing at Andrews Air Force Base.

"I think it is imperative that we look at the Keystone XL 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 and deal with other issues," Clinton said at a campaign event in Iowa. "Therefore, I oppose it. I oppose it because I don't think it's in the best interest of what we need to do to combat climate change."

Clinton had previously said she wanted to stay out of the Keystone debate and give the Obama administration a chance to decide the fate of the controversial oil pipeline, but today she said the process has taken too long.

Clinton was interrupted by an extended period of applause. It's an issue environmental activists have pushed the Democratic field and President Obama on.

Clinton promised a comprehensive energy plan soon. Two of her opponents in the Democratic primary — Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders — have long opposed the Keystone XL pipeline and have been critical of Clinton's long delay in weighing in.

Sanders took no time at all responding on Twitter and in a statement:

"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. Clearly it would be absurd to encourage the extraction and transportation of some of the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet."

O'Malley took a different tone, criticizing Clinton for lacking "leadership" and following public opinion:

"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. Leadership is about stating where you stand on critical issues, regardless of how they poll or focus group.

"The American people want a President who will lead — not just someone who will tell them what they want to hear. On many of these issues, I staked out positions and got things done — even when they were politically unpopular. That's what's at stake in this election: the difference between conviction and convenience, and the gulf between actions and words."

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Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.
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