Keystone Pipeline: Bill Clinton Puts In Good Word, But Wife To Decide Fate

First Posted: 02/29/2012 5:57 pm Updated: 03/ 2/2012 11:02 am

Bill Clinton

WASHINGTON - Former U.S. president Bill Clinton has thrown his support behind TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline, the controversial project whose ultimate fate is in the hands of his wife.

Clinton, the keynote speaker at the Department of Energy's conference for clean-technology startup companies, wondered aloud on Wednesday why TransCanada didn't originally propose to build the pipeline around the environmentally sensitive Ogallala aquifer in Nebraska.

"One of the most amazing things to me about this Keystone pipeline deal is that they ever filed that route in the first place, since they could have gone around the Nebraska Sand Hills and avoided most of the dangers, no matter how imagined, to the Ogallala with a different route," he said at the event in Maryland.

"The extra cost of (rerouting the pipeline) is infinitesimal compared to the revenue that will be generated over a long period of time," he added.

"So, I think we should embrace it and develop a stakeholder-driven system of high standards for doing the work."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, testifying later in the day to the House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, was asked about her husband's remarks.

"He's a very smart man," she said to laughter.

"But he, unfortunately, is not bound by the laws and regulations any longer of the United States to make decisions that follow a certain procedure. And that's what we have to do."

Bill Clinton's comments will almost certainly cause a stir given his wife has already been accused of a pro-pipeline bias by the sea of American environmentalists who oppose Keystone XL. The State Department is deciding the fate of the $7.6 billion pipeline since it crosses an international border.

"Obviously we disagree with his support of the pipeline," said Susan Casey Lefkowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "It's never good to have the spouse of the secretary of state commenting on something where she may be the decision-maker."

Lefkowitz pointed out, however, that Clinton also made reference to America's "continued addiction" to oil in his remarks, saying it stifles innovation and keeps the U.S. tethered to the past.

"And that's exactly why we're so opposed to this project and dirty oil in particular," she said.

In November, the Obama administration deferred making a decision on the pipeline until after this year's presidential election, citing concerns about the risks that Keystone XL's proposed route could pose to the Sand Hills region of Nebraska.

Pipeline proponents cried foul, saying it was a cynical political move aimed at pacifying the environmentalists among President Barack Obama's base in advance of the election.

In January, facing a mid-February deadline imposed by congressional Republicans, the Obama administration rejected TransCanada's permit outright, saying it didn't have enough time to thoroughly review a new route before giving it the green light.

But Obama also assured Prime Minister Stephen Harper that the decision was not based on the pipeline's merits, but was merely necessitated by Republican pressure tactics.

Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that TransCanada will submit a new application for a route that would carry Alberta oilsands bitumen from the Canadian border to Steel City, Nebraska.

"At the same time," she said, "they're moving forward with parts of the pipeline like from Oklahoma to Texas, that don't cross the border and don't need State Department evaluation or decision."

The Calgary-based company has also said it's reapplying soon for a presidential permit that incorporates the alternate route around the Nebraska aquifer.

Republicans have not eased up on their attempts to force approval of the pipeline. Earlier this month, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed legislation that would strong-arm the Obama administration into green-lighting Keystone XL as soon as possible.

They believe the pipeline will create thousands of jobs and help end U.S. dependency on oil from often hostile OPEC regimes.

The pipeline was a topic of discussion at a lunch meeting Wednesday at the White House between Obama and John Boehner, Republican speaker of the House of Representatives.

"I did press the president on the Keystone pipeline," Boehner told a news conference.

"The president said: 'Well, you're gonna get part.' I just wish we were getting the part that actually delivers the oil out of Canada."

At the White House daily media briefing, spokesman Jay Carney decried Republican efforts to force approval of the pipeline.

"Calls to approve Keystone XL right away, again, are insulting to the American people because there is no permit to approve," he said.

The pipeline has become a rallying cry for Republican presidential candidates as well. After narrowly winning the Michigan primary on Tuesday, Mitt Romney vowed to keep fighting for Keystone XL.

"I'll get us that oil from Canada that we deserve," he said to cheers in Columbus, OH.

The Obama administration, meantime, signalled a shift in attitude toward Keystone XL earlier this week when the president praised TransCanada's decision to proceed with constructing the pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma to Port Arthur, Texas.

Hillary Clinton denied the administration was shifting gears in her testimony on Wednesday.

"So why the flip-flop on the Keystone XL pipeline?" Florida congressman Connie Mack asked Clinton.

"I don't think there was any flip-flop, Congressman," she replied.

"I think that this was always a matter that had to be evaluated in accordance with legal and regulatory standards. Certainly energy security considerations were a key factor, but not the only factor. There was a lot of concern on the part of one state through which the pipeline travelled."

WATCH:
View some of the celebrities who have spoken out against the pipeline below:
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  • Dalai Lama

    In September 2011, the Dalai Lama was one of nine Nobel Peace Prize laureates who <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/09/07/nobel-peace-prize-winners_n_952248.html" target="_hplink">sent a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama</a> urging him "to say 'no' to the plan proposed by the Canadian-based company TransCanada to build the Keystone XL, and to turn [his] attention back to supporting renewable sources of energy and clean transportation solutions."

  • Archbishop Desmond Tutu

    Archbishop Desmond Tutu was among<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/09/28/nobel-prize-winners-oil-sands_n_985171.html" target="_hplink"> a group of Nobel Peace Prize laureates</a> who signed letters to both U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, urging the men to stop the Keystone pipeline.

  • Al Gore

    Gore has said it is essential to stop the Keystone pipeline because the tar sands oil it would carry is "the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/al-gore/the-dirtiest-fuel-on-the-_b_944186.html" target="_hplink">dirtiest source of fuel on the planet</a>."

  • Robert Redford

    Actor and environmentalist <a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000602/" target="_hplink">Robert Redford</a> recently added his name to the list of prominent individuals who are calling on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/24/robert-redford-keystone-xl_n_1019789.html" target="_hplink">In a video for <em>The New York Times</em>, produced with the Natural Resources Defense Council</a>, Redford described the negative aspects of the proposed tar sands pipeline and said, "By deepening our reliance on oil, the pipeline would be a job killer." Redford has previously been vocal about calling for alternatives to oil. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-redford/keystone-xl-pipeline_b_978835.html" target="_hplink">Writing last month for HuffPost</a>, he said, "Let's build the next generation of energy efficient cars, homes and workplaces. Let's develop wind, solar and other cleaner, safer, more sustainable sources of power and fuel. Let's invest in high-speed rail and smart communities that give us better transportation options."

  • Mark Ruffalo

    Actor <a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0749263/" target="_hplink">Mark Ruffalo</a>, famous for films like "<a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0842926/" target="_hplink">The Kids Are All Right</a>" and "<a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0443706/" target="_hplink">Zodiac</a>," is also an outspoken activist and opponent of the Keystone XL pipeline. Ruffalo <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/11/mark-ruffalo-tar-sands_n_924245.html" target="_hplink">said in a video</a> for the <a href="http://www.tarsandsaction.org/" target="_hplink">Tar Sands Action</a> group, "I've seen the kind of damage that out-of-control energy development can do to water and to communities near my own home, where fracking for natural gas is causing widespread pollution ... All these problems are connected -- we need to get off fossil fuels." In the past, Ruffalo has also expressed his ire for hydraulic fracturing natural gas extraction, or fracking. He told The Huffington Post, "The <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/18/mark-ruffalo-fights-frack_n_810461.html" target="_hplink">world is already leaving us behind</a>. We're being left behind. America. Because the gas and oil industry has a strangle hold on us. And our politicians."

  • Bill McKibben

    Environmentalist and author <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-mckibben/" target="_hplink">Bill McKibben</a> has expressed strong disapproval for the planned Keystone XL pipeline. In fact, he was <a href="http://www.tarsandsaction.org/press/releases/aug20/" target="_hplink">one of the first</a> of over 1,200 who were arrested at the Tar Sands Action sit-in at the White House in August. Referring to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/23/keystone-xl-frustrated-environmental-activists-obama_n_933648.html" target="_hplink">his opposition to the Keystone Pipeline</a>, McKibben told HuffPost, "The people who've carried this fight for three years are indigenous people on both sides of the border who have a huge stake in it because it's on their land, and farmers and ranchers from places like Nebraska," he said. He added, "It wasn't until I sat down and read <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-james-hansen" target="_hplink">Jim Hansen</a>'s analysis of how much carbon was in those things that I understood that this was not just a national issue, it's a global issue of the first order."

  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus

    <a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000506/" target="_hplink">Julia Louis-Dreyfus</a>, known for her role as Elaine on the popular sitcom "Seinfeld," has released a video urging President Obama to reject the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. Dreyfus recalls when Obama said "Let us be the generation that ends the tyranny of oil." But she says, "Big Oil is still pretty much running the show." She claims that by rejecting the pipeline, Obama has a chance to "make good on [his] word." <a href="http://www.tarsandsaction.org/video-release-julia-louis-dreyfus-challenges-pres-obama-stop-keystone-xl/" target="_hplink">Louis-Dreyfus asks Obama</a>, "Denying the permit for a brutally stupid, money-grab like the Keystone XL pipeline is a no-brainer, right Mr President?"

  • Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman

    Dave Heineman, the Republican governor of Nebraska, has officially stated that he opposes the Keystone XL project. As the governor of an agrarian state through which the pipeline would pass, Heineman expressed his concern for the pipeline's threat to Nebraska's vital water resources. According to the Associated Press, "Heineman said <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/31/nebraska-governor-opposes-pipeline_n_943610.html" target="_hplink">he supports pipeline projects</a> but opposes the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL route." In August, Heineman <a href="http://www.governor.nebraska.gov/news/2011/08/31_pipeline.html" target="_hplink">sent an open letter</a> to President Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton urging them to "not allow TransCanada to build a pipeline over the Ogallala Aquifer and risk the potential damage to Nebraska's water."

  • Daryl Hannah

    Actress <a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000435/" target="_hplink">Daryl Hannah</a> has also lent her voice to the movement against the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/keystone-pipeline" target="_hplink">Keystone XL pipeline</a>. In August, Hannah was one of the over 1,200 people to be <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/30/daryl-hannah-arrested-keystone-protest_n_942072.html" target="_hplink">arrested as an act of civil disobedience</a> in front of the White House. Shouting "no to the Keystone pipeline" as she was handcuffed, Hannah made it clear she opposed the proposed Canada to Texas pipeline.

  • Maude Barlow

    Maude Barlow, a Canadian author and activist and chairperson of <a href="http://www.canadians.org/" target="_hplink">The Council of Canadians</a>, was arrested in September at a Keystone pipeline and oil sands protest on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/09/26/ottawa-oil-sands-pipeline-protest_n_981052.html" target="_hplink">She was one of over 100 protesters</a> of the demonstration's estimated 400 to be arrested. Writing for HuffPost Canada about <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/maude-barlow/maude-barlow-arrested_b_982487.html" target="_hplink">her first experience being arrested</a>, Barlow blogged, "I did it because I fear we are killing the planet and I can no longer be content to only write and speak about it. Today my feet spoke for me as I crossed that barricade and took away one more fear in my life." She also said, "By investing trillions of dollars into these pipelines, governments and the energy industry are ensuring the continued rapid acceleration of tar sands development, instead of supporting a process to move to an alternative and sustainable energy system."

  • Kyra Sedgwick

    <a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001718/" target="_hplink">Kyra Sedgwick</a>, star of the television crime drama "The Closer," has voiced her opposition to the pipeline. In a video for the <a href="http://www.nrdc.org/" target="_hplink">Natural Resources Defense Council</a>, Sedgwick said "Just like the BP oil spill, one glitch in the tar sands pipeline could destroy our clean water sources, possibly forever."

  • David Strathairn

    Joining several other prominent actors, David Strathairn appeared in a video urging President Obama to reject the Keystone Pipeline. He calls on his fellow Americans to join the November 6 <a href="http://www.tarsandsaction.org/" target="_hplink">Tar Sands Action</a> in Washington, D.C. <a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000657/" target="_hplink">Strathairn</a>, who is known for his portrayal of journalist Edward R. Murrow in "Good Night, and Good Luck," said, "Obama ran for office speaking of the dangers of our fossil fuel addiction, promising to fight climate change and fully embrace a clean energy future. The <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/keystone-pipeline" target="_hplink">Keystone XL tar sands pipeline</a> is a dangerous step away from that commitment."

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