Climate

Hillary Clinton Releases A Plan To Modernize America’s Energy Infrastructure

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Less than 24 hours after officially coming out against the Keystone XL pipeline, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton released her plan for modernizing America’s energy infrastructure and combatting climate change across North America.

Clinton had long refused to take a public stance on Keystone, a project that was first filed with the State Department during her tenure as Secretary of State. But the increasingly-visible threat of climate change, Clinton wrote in an essay published today on Medium, caused her to finally release an official position on the proposed pipeline, which would bring tar sands crude from Canada to Nebraska.

“We shouldn’t be building a pipeline dedicated to moving North America’s dirtiest fuel through our communities — we should be focused on what it will take to make America the clean energy superpower of the 21st century,” Clinton said in the essay. “Building a clean, secure, and affordable North American energy future is bigger than Keystone XL or any other single project. That’s what I will focus on as president.”

If elected president, Clinton announced that she would immediately begin negotiations for a North American Climate Compact between the United States, Canada, and Mexico, intended to create strong national targets and accountability mechanisms for emissions reductions in each country. A climate pact between the three countries, Clinton said, would “[create] certainty for investors and confidence in the future of our climate, so we can all marshal resources equal to the challenges we face.” In addition to setting ambitious emissions reduction targets, the proposed climate compact would develop common infrastructure standards across the continent, expand existing regional emissions trading markets, invest in low-carbon transportation, and work to set continent-wide reduction standards for methane.

At home, Clinton’s proposed energy infrastructure upgrades would focus on ensuring that fuels are transported across the country safely — whether by rail or pipeline — and unlocking new investment resources.

In the arena of pipelines, Clinton said that, if elected president, she would work to strengthen national pipeline safety regulations and partner with local operators and regulators to fix and replace aging pipelines. To tackle the recent spike in oil that is now transported by rail, Clinton said she would speed up both the retirement of outdated tank cars and the repairing of track defects.

Clinton also pledged to create a new national infrastructure bank, which would be used for investments in new infrastructure projects. She also said that she would look to expand access to clean energy by making the federal permitting process more streamlined and efficient, and help expand customer choice in an array of energy options.

“American energy policy is about more than a single pipeline to transport Canada’s dirtiest fuel across our country,” Clinton wrote. “It’s about building our future — a future where the United States will once again lead the world by constructing state-of-the-art infrastructure, creating new jobs and new markets, accelerating the transition to a clean energy economy, and improving the health, safety, and security of all Americans.”

The plan makes no mention of expanding — or contracting — drilling operations, though Clinton has previously come out against drilling in the Arctic. The plan also takes no position on lifting the ban on the export of crude oil, which is currently being debated in Congress. It says nothing about exporting coal overseas, a market that coal companies are hoping to greatly expand through proposed coal export terminals along the country’s Pacific coast.

Clinton previously released a detailed plan on combatting climate change and investing in renewable energy, which called for, among other things, the installation of half a billion solar panels by 2021 — a 700 percent increase over current installations.

Despite these proposals, as well as her now clarified stance against Keystone, it’s unclear whether environmentalists are ready to embrace Clinton as their candidate. Environmental groups have, thus far, been hesitant to pledge their unabashed support, citing things like her failure to take a strong stance against Keystone and her propensity to support fossil fuel production as worrisome.

Many environmental groups applauded her statement against Keystone yesterday, however, saying that it indicates Clinton is on the right track with regards to her climate policies.

“It’s good to see Hillary Clinton finally oppose the Keystone XL pipeline, especially her recognition that it would be inconsistent with efforts to address climate change,” Kelly Mitchell, energy campaign director for Greenpeace, said in a statement. “With clear opposition from every major Democratic presidential candidate, there is now even more pressure on President Obama to reject this dangerous tar sands pipeline.”

Clinton isn’t the only candidate to make energy policy and climate change a central theme of their campaign. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s energy plan is arguably the strongest plan released by a current Democratic candidate, taking a strong stance against fossil fuels and tax breaks for fossil fuel companies — something Clinton has yet to do. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) gained the endorsement of Friends of the Earth in early August, though the senator has yet to release his own energy plan.