US Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton broke her long silence on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline on Tuesday, saying she opposes the project.
Clinton had for months declined to comment on the pipeline, which would send Canadian crude oil to US refineries. As US Secretary of State, Clinton presided over years of study of the project, which environmental groups and liberal Democrats vehemently oppose.
In the past, Clinton had cited her position as a member of President Obama's cabinet as a reason for not offering her opinion, saying she wanted the Obama administration to make its own assessment.
At a campaign event in Iowa, Clinton called Keystone "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."
"Therefore, I oppose it," she said.
The 1,900-kilometer (1,180-mile) pipeline would bring crude oil from Canadian oil sands in the province of Alberta to a network of pipelines that cross the United States to the Gulf Mexico.
Environmental groups are strongly opposed to the construction of the pipeline because the oil is extracted from so-called "tar sands," and requires significant energy to extract.
"I don't think we need to have a pipeline bringing very dirty oil, exploiting the tar sands in western Canada, across our border," Clinton said.
Keystone XL is still being studied nearly seven years after TransCanada - the company that would build it - first requested to construct the pipeline.
US Senator Bernie Sanders, who is challenging Clinton for the Democratic nomination, welcomed her opposition to the project.
Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidates were swift to admonish Clinton for her opposition to the pipeline.
"Hillary Clinton finally says what we already knew. She favors environmental extremists over US jobs," former Florida Governor Jeb Bush tweeted.
Several Republicans joined in, including Ohio Governor John Kasich, who said "America needs the Keystone pipeline and the jobs that come with it."
The Obama administration is expected to decide on the pipeline project in the coming months and declined to comment on Clinton's position.
The State Department, which is currently reviewing the project, said there is no timeline for the completion of that review.
Meanwhile, Canada's conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper said US approval of Keystone XL could vitalize Alberta's oil fields. He said through a spokesman that Canada knows "the American people support the project."
bw/cmk (Reuters, AFP)