Clinton Distances Herself From Pipeline Decision Process: It Was “Delegated to the Deputy” in Early 2009

Buried at the end of today’s must-read Washington Post piece, “Obama allies’ interests collide over Keystone pipeline” is this bombshell:

On Oct. 11, in an interview with the Associated Press, [Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton said she realized “this is a very emotional decision” for some but emphasized that she had not been involved in the process yet because “originally, two and a half years ago, this had been delegated to the deputy.”

State Department officials have said they will issue a final decision on the permit by the end of the year; on Nov. 6, McKibben and other activists plan to ring the White House with placards of Obama’s words from the 2008 campaign, including his pledge to free the United States from “the tyranny of oil.”

Hmm.  Is she distancing herself from the process because it was unbelievably flawed — see Bombshell: State Department Outsourced Tar Sands Pipeline Environmental Impact Study to ‘Major’ TransCanada Contractor?

My sources say there is a possibility the White House will delay the decision (until after the election), which would be a semi-victory.

The full transcript of the Clinton interview does shows her leaving the door open for such a delay.  Amazingly, she says, back when she delegated the decision, “This was not something that the Secretary was going to decide”:

QUESTION: I need to get a quick one in on Keystone (inaudible). So there are environmentalists —

QUESTION: Time’s up. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: I was waiting for that (inaudible). You’re slow off to start (inaudible).

QUESTION: Too bad. He started talking. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah, right. Okay.

QUESTION: There’s been a lot of allegations from environmentalists that there’s a conflict of interest, that this TransCanada guy who worked in the campaign has somehow gotten sort of a cozy relationship with the Department then. So the question is, one, I mean, is there – was there a conflict? Do you see any conflict of interest, any problem here? Do you still expect a decision to be made sooner than the end of the year? Will make it yourself? Will you delegate it to someone? How does all that work?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Matt, first, I think that the Department, both here in Washington and in Ottawa, has been very much in listen-and-outreach mode, and they have met with, talked with, received information from a very large group of interested parties – some for, some against, as you know. They recently concluded six public sessions that were held gave a forum for people, and you just can’t – this is a very emotional decision. You have people who feel very strongly on both sides, as has been evident. You have states that are welcoming it, states that are rejecting it, all of whom, I think, are governed by Republicans. Or maybe one isn’t but – (laughter) – it’s quite – this is a very local – this is an issue that raises very local concerns. So I have been just having our team go forward and do what they’re supposed to do, so I have nothing more to say at this time because until a recommendation comes up the chain and – originally, two and a half years ago, this had been delegated to the deputy. This was not something that the Secretary was going to decide. But there is no recommendation, and when there is a recommendation, there’ll be a decision, but it’ll be very much rooted in all the work that has been done. And I think people have tried to be extremely careful and thoughtful, and it’s a process that I am trying to respect until it reaches its conclusion.

QUESTION: But you don’t see any merit to this conflict of interest (inaudible).

SECRETARY CLINTON: No. I mean, I haven’t – I have no reason to believe that.

So, she can say “yes” and put it on her deputy or she can say “we need to take another look at this” and call for a new review, a new Environmental Impact Study.  Until recently, most people thought this was a certain “yes.”  But now there appears to a chance, however, small, of an outcome that is wiser.



27 Responses to Clinton Distances Herself From Pipeline Decision Process: It Was “Delegated to the Deputy” in Early 2009

  1. Raul M. says:

    OT, Miriam Kastner’s utube explanation of methane clathrates- natural resource or natural threat is still there and still saying much about the potential future.
    There is talk that the clathrates are too dangerous to mine but the ones already venting may be too dangerous to ignore.
    Just saying

  2. Sasparilla says:

    I read the article in the Washington Post this morning and could only shake my head in disgust at what the Sec State said.

    I was surprised to see that the Obama administration approved not just the Keystone 1 tar sands pipeline in June 2009 but also approve the Alberta Clipper tar sands pipeline in August 2009. Talk about throwing climate change over the side right at the start.

    There is definitely pressure getting to the administration on this issue, which is nice to see that is possible – it’d be great to cancel the XL (doesn’t seem likely) but I’ll take a delay.

    A very good article by the Washington Post, although it could have used more of a description as to why its game over for the climate if we mine the tar sands, it was a good one (at least these days).

  3. Folks, please remember to spread the word about Nov. 6 and sign up to be there yourself. Otherwise, no fair complaining about lack of a movement, etc etc. We’ve finally got something going here, and we need everyone on board. (sign up at

  4. Seems obvious that there will be a lawsuit if they approve it – and that the lawsuit would involve a lot of muckraking.

    Would Obama want that law suit to happen during the election campaign? Wouldn’t he obviously be better off if he delayed this decision until after the election?

  5. Leif says:

    Obama needs to get the left energized and what better way than throw the 99% a Keystone Bone. “Out” the lobbyists and Corporate greed and Wall Street plunder for what it is and change the course of history in pursuit of a sustainable Green economy the world over.



  6. Joan Savage says:

    I’d like some information backup, even with some optimism that with persistence, the Obama administration would back off on the Keystone XL.
    What other fossil extraction projects are of the same magnitude as using up the Alberta tar sands? It seems to me there is a short list of “game over” decisions, but what all are they?
    Like plotting a path through a video game, if we escape the perils of the tar sands, what other dangers await that are on a similar scale, either singly or in aggregate?

  7. John McAndrew says:

    No way a delayed decision is a victory, for Obama OR the environment. Punting on this makes it even more likely that those who are disgusted with his lack of leadership will not vote for him, no matter who his opponent is. And if he is not the president come 2013, his successor WILL authorize it, because they can’t imagine not drilling, regardless of the consequences.

  8. Jeff Huggins says:

    An Upcoming Choice

    That’s interesting, and I’d like to be among the early few to point something out:

    The post suggests that a possible “delay” of “the decision” regarding Keystone XL, until after the election, “would be a semi-victory”.

    That depends, and it also raises a question. It’s not a question that we need to answer immediately — although it might help to do so, in order that Obama can make his choices in light of as much information as possible. Here’s the question:


    Or, will we find contrived reasons to continue with our “please” strategy, leave matters vague, vote for him no matter what, and tell ourselves that we can trust him to do what he says or implies?

    This will be a very real question that we’ll face if he/they postpone the decision. I know what I’ll do: Unless he makes the ‘no’ decision (to Keystone XL) before the election, or unless he (at a very minimum) commits publicly — in no uncertain terms — to say ‘no’ to Keystone XL, President Obama will not have my vote next time around.

    I also find it remarkable that Hillary is distancing herself from the process and decision. What other BS are we going to allow ourselves to put up with?

    Be Well,


  9. janjamm says:

    I’m troubled by the Secretary coining this an “emotional” issue. I think that’s a way of flipping the whole thing off. Actually, this is a science issue. Science, both climate and economic, have provided some very damning evidence that sharply contradicts the points used by TransCanada. We are out here because there is good science that reveals the impending inevitable disaster, the hoax of job creation and the lies of “ending oil dependency” from “unsavory” Middle Eastern countries, to name a few of the more obvious. Calling the pipeline merely an emotional issue is a way of patting everyone on the head and saying, “There, there now, you’re just upset.” Not.

  10. janjamm says:

    Jeff, Why would the President postpone the decision, but also say he is going to deny permission, in no uncertain terms. What would he gain by saying NO, but delaying the NO until after the election? They’re fighting TransCanada out there in Nebraska right now as they take land and lay pipe, at will.

  11. Mike Roddy says:

    You’re right, Bill, and thanks for your efforts. What can we do in California?

  12. MarkfromLexington says:

    It is disturbing that Clinton is characterizing this decision as a “very local” issue. That is code for NIMBY and doesn’t bode well for those campaigning against KeyStone XL.

    The administration should not be allowed to position this as a “very local” issue. It is anything but “very local”.

  13. janjamm says:

    Excellent point. There are so many political-speak code words in her statement. You can hear them now. They just fall from their don’t-say-anything-that-reflects-reality mouths. Or as Orwell said:”Newspeak vocabulary was tiny, and new ways of reducing it were constantly being devised. Newspeak, indeed, differed from most all other languages in that its vocabulary grew smaller instead of larger every year. Each reduction was a gain, since the smaller the area of choice, the smaller the temptation to take thought. Ultimately it was hoped to make articulate speech issue from the larynx without involving the higher brain centres at all. This aim was frankly admitted in the Newspeak word duckspeak, meaning ‘to quack like a duck’.”
    Orwell, “1984”

  14. Joe Romm says:

    Yes, very lame calling this “emotional.”

  15. Mike Roddy says:

    Well said, janjamm. We are all getting a little tired of condescending and hedging from people who are supposed to be our leaders.

  16. Sasparilla says:

    It seems like most others aren’t single point issues (Alberta tar sands is one overall location), but rather distributed.

    For example if we pull all the coal out of the ground on the planet that we currently know about and can get to that will be game over. President Obama’s approval of significantly increased coal mining on Federal Lands was a step down that path (not nearly as bad as his prior approval of 2 Canadian tar sands pipelines in 2009 of course).

    I think if we pull all the non conventional oil (like all the shale oil, which we can now profitably extract – which is a new situation, 5 years ago it was thought the shale oil would be locked away forever) that will do it also.

    Money and power want those things to happen.

    There are feedback mechanisms along these lines as well:

    Thaw out all the permafrost in the northern hemisphere and its game over.

    Thaw out a bunch of the undersea clathrates with slightly warmer ocean floor temperatures and its game over.

    Dry out the Amazon so that it burns (its had a couple of unprecedented droughts this last decade giving a hint of the future there) and I think its game over (because of the CO2 released).

    Unfortunately they aren’t single location (except for the Earth in general), single government items where pressure can easily be placed on politicians – as the XL extension lends itself to.

  17. Joan Savage says:

    The decision on the Keystone XL pipeline has a traceable chain of consequences. As you surely know, multiple decisions by multiple entities contributed to thawing permafrost and other changes looming on the event horizon.
    We might see a decision regarding the tar sands in eastern Utah, inside US borders, but I have a queasy feeling that decision may have already been made.
    On a lighter note, decisions that decouple us from dangerous outcomes deserve a better term than “game not over” as it’s not really just a game.

  18. Leif says:

    Right on you All.

  19. Leif says:

    And still right on. I love CP.

  20. Joan Savage says:

    I think we are being skeptical, with reason. In this context, her use of “emotional” also looked like a code word for “temporary” to me.

    Remember when she ran for President, the media made hay out of an “emotional” moment of hers in 2008. It’s not a compliment for a politician to be emotional.

  21. Raul M. says:

    Isn’t the concern for conflict of interest also a bait and switch, as the primary concern for the State Dept. Should be the potential for the country to prosper and prosper goes beyond an outdated belief that God will cover for all our shortcomings.
    Only going with current laws concerning our potential future is lacking and doesn’t address real conflicts of interest that go beyond our ability to cover for our shortcomings.

  22. The decision by TransCanada to hire Clinton’s ex-campaign manager to lobby shows clearly that Clinton is a central player in this decision.

    Her attempt to say she isn’t involved sure reminds me of her husband saying he didn’t inhale. Lame ducking of personal responsibility.

    As far as her talk about “emotional” and “very local” that could cut either way. It could be setting the stage to dismiss opposition so she can approve. Or, more hopefully, it could preparing her excuse to TransCanada and Canada government for a delay. “Yes, the USA is a partner with you on this oil, but we have this unpleasant emotional NIMBY thing going on that we can’t afford to fight in an election year. We are going to pull back until the waters calm down. Our delay doesn’t mean we don’t want the oil or the jobs…we just have a domestic situation here that is inflamed during an election.”

  23. Along with the condescension about this being an “emotional” issue (and of course it is emotional — in Nebraska our land and water and hence our agriculturally-based economy are at stake) is the laughter about the states with local concerns being governed by Republicans. Shouldn’t there be more curiosity from Secretary Clinton about what those Republican governors know about the situation that puts them to the left of this administration on the pipeline issue?

  24. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Joan – I’d well agree that ‘game over’ is a crassly inappropriate description of the result of failing to address the critical issues, comprising:
    – controlling global temperature to decelerate the diverse interactive feedbacks;
    – halting the expansion of, and then reducing to near zero, our global fossil fuel dependence;
    – establishing the agricultural and forestry capacities for recovering airborne carbon to cleanse the atmosphere back to 280ppmv.

    Failure to meet each of these objectives within the very limited time windows available is not about game over – it’s about our extinction.



  25. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    About NIMBY –

    with Britain as my front garden, which has my primary care and concern,
    the world as a whole is my ‘Back Yard’ – which I cherish and defend as my family’s rightful heritage.

    Time we outed the term nimby for the abusive nonsense that it is.



  26. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Oh, how I wish we had such freedoms here as you enjoy in America. The freedom to delegate ones responsibilities to a deputy – well that should just be declared a fundamental human right.

    My deputy does a great job on the things I delegate to her – like catching rats and having kittens – but if I could delegate the really ’emotional’ decisions to her, like say paying taxes, it would just save so much stress – when she tells me I should pay my tax well I’d just get on and do so – and until then, no worries – after all, it’s her decision!



  27. Cynthia says:

    I guess the $21 billion that’s on the table for this project caused her emotions to overcome her reason.