Hillary Clinton's Keystone Problem

The Democratic presidential candidate has already faced protests from environmental activists regarding the Keystone XL pipeline.
Environmentalists are challenging Hillary Clinton about the Keystone XL pipeline. (Photo: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)
Apr 14, 2015· 1 MIN READ

Hillary Clinton announced Sunday that she will run for president, and environmental groups are welcoming her to the race with the first of what could be many Keystone XL protests.

The controversial pipeline has become a litmus test for environmentalists concerned that Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner, won’t take a bold enough stance to fight climate change. As secretary of state, Clinton said she was “inclined” to sign off on the pipeline, which would carry emissions-heavy oil sands from Alberta to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. Since then, Clinton has remained silent on Keystone XL, while the Obama administration has spent six years deciding whether to approve or reject it. A final decision, which could come in weeks or months, would take some of the heat off Clinton.

But for now, the pressure’s on: Climate activism group 350.org, which helped catapult Keystone XL into the limelight as a symbol of the contemporary environmental movement, led a protest outside Clinton’s Brooklyn campaign headquarters on Monday.

“We all remember when Clinton said she was 'inclined' to approve Keystone XL. If the pipeline goes through, she'll shoulder part of the blame, and this protest will be just a small taste of actions to come,” Jamie Henn, spokesperson for 350 Action, told the Monitor. “Clinton is saying many of the right things on climate—Keystone XL is an easy way to start doing the right thing.”

Clinton might seem an unlikely target, given the strong marks she has received from other environmental groups. But with few Democratic challengers and a Republican field that questions the science of climate change, green groups are training their eyes on Clinton, who they believe could take a more vocal stand against climate change. According to an ABC News poll, 59 percent of Americans say they “want the next president to be someone who favors government action to address climate change,” while 58 percent call climate change an important issue.

Environmentalists are also mindful that Obama’s environmental legacy—including plans to slash U.S. power plant emissions 30 percent by 2030 and his work toward a binding international climate accord—will be carried on by his successor.

This story was produced by The Christian Science Monitor.