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Common Dreams

Critics Rebuke Bill Clinton for 'Embracing' Keystone

Unwelcome remarks by former US President and husband to Secretary of State who may ultimately decide passage

Common Dreams staff

Former President Bill Clinton talks with his wife, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, during a dedication ceremony on Sept. 30, 2011, in Little Rock, Ark. (AP / The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Staton Breidenthal)

Bill Clinton turned heads on Wednesday after saying at an energy conference in Maryland that the Obama administration should 'embrace' the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline which would carry the world's dirtiest oil from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf coast in the United States.  Environmentalists, landowners, clean water and clean energy advocates have all opposed the project, which would -- among other detrimental impacts -- run the risk of contaminating the Ogalla water acquifer which provides drinking water for millions in the heart of US agricultural lands.

According to the original report at Politico, Clinton said:

"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've gone around the Nebraska Sandhills and avoided most of the dangers, no matter how imagined, to the Ogallala [aquifer] with a different route, which I presume we'll get now, because the extra cost of running is infinitesimal compared to the revenue that will be generated over a long period of time." And then added, "I think we should embrace it and develop a stakeholder-driven system of high standards for doing the work."

According to the Canadian Press, "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."  As Common Dreams recently reported, TransCanada announced a new plan to get the pipeline approved, and the State Department will still play a crucial role future assessments and be key in any future approvals.

"The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is a scam and the more the American people see it as the result of the dirty money that is corrupting our political system, the more they will continue to rise up against it." --Jamie Henn,

The original pipeline route proposed by Transcanada, the Canadian firm behind the project, was deferred by the Obama administration after Congressional Republicans forced a premature decision during a political squabble over a tax reform bill late last year.  Because the pipeline crosses the international border it needed to receive approval from the State Department and be signed off on by the President.  The constrained deadline forced Obama to reject the project proposal, a move championed by environmentalists who last fall staged large protests against the pipeline in front of the White House and in communities along the proposed route.

Chief among those environmental campaigners has been, which was dismayed by Clinton's comments on Wednesday. "President Clinton must not have looked at this pipeline closely," 350's communications director Jamie Henn told Common Dreams. "The Keystone XL pipeline stands in complete contradiction to the climate and clean energy goals Clinton has championed so effectively in the past. Keystone XL isn't just another oil pipeline, it's a fuse to one of the largest carbon bombs on the planet: the Canadian tar sands."

"I think a lot of Democrats," Henn continued, "are looking at polls that ask misleading questions and get results saying 'Americans want more oil.' In reality, Americans want a solution to our energy crisis and would prefer our politicians stop giving handouts to the fossil fuel industry and start investing in a clean energy future. The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is a scam and the more the American people see it as the result of the dirty money that is corrupting our political system, the more they will continue to rise up against it."

Susan Casey Lefkowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council, voiced opposition to Clinton's comments and noted the added weight they may receive given his status and who his wife is. According to the Canadian Press:

"Obviously we disagree with his support of the pipeline," said Lefkowitz. "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.


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