Questions over Keystone XL dog Clinton on campaign trail

Questions over Keystone XL dog Clinton on campaign trail

A seemingly exasperated Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate Heller embraces Trump in risky attempt to survive in November Live coverage: Cruz, O'Rourke clash in Texas debate MORE refused for the second consecutive day to stake out a position on the Keystone XL pipeline, telling a crowd in New Hampshire that she would answer the question “when I become president.”

The double dodge from the Democratic front-runner comes as she faces increasing pressure from the left to take strong, progressive positions on trade, the minimum wage and other issues on which she has avoided taking a clear stance. 

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The message from Clinton on Keystone, however, is clear: Her lips are sealed, so stop asking.

The former secretary of State bristled during the event Tuesday when a voter asked her to take a yes-or-no position on the controversial Canada-to-Texas pipeline.

“This is President Obama’s decision. And I am not going to second-guess him, because I was in a position to set this in motion, and I do not think that would be the right thing to do,” she said.

“If it’s undecided when I become president, I will answer your question.”

Clinton later told reporters asking for a Keystone comment, “I will not do it,” according to The New York Times. “I am sorry if people want me to.”

She expressed frustration with the focus on Keystone over other climate issues, such as China’s explosion of coal-fired power plants.

“I think to signal that there is only one overriding threat really doesn’t take into account the seriousness of a whole range of issues,” Clinton said of Keystone.

“We’ve had dozens of pipelines already crossing our border from Canada, so we have to look at all of this,” she said, referring to her larger energy plan, which she started to release Sunday with her goals for renewable energy installations.

Clinton ducked the Keystone question Monday as well, citing her tenure at Foggy Bottom, which spanned from 2009 to 2013.

“So I will refrain from commenting, because I had a leading role in getting that process started, and I think that we have to let it run its course,” she said.

Her silence on Keystone is bringing climate activists closer to giving up hope that candidate Clinton will ever give them the strong repudiation of fossil fuels that they are looking for.

“That’s such a ridiculously tone-deaf and elitist answer that I think it’s starting to worry people,” said Karthik Ganapathy, a spokesman for 350 Action, the campaign affiliate of 350.org.

Ganapathy said he’s not buying Clinton’s reasoning that weighing in would be inappropriate.

“She’s been willing to take a stand on other ongoing issues in the State Department like the Iran deal or Libya,” Ganapathy said.

“It’s clear to me that this isn’t respect for procedure. This is a politically motivated dodge.”

Combined with Clinton’s Sunday rollout of her climate platform, it’s been a disappointing few days for environmentalists.

She set goals for renewable energy installations but said nothing about Keystone, oil and gas drilling, offshore drilling, climate regulations or any of the more controversial environmental questions.

“It makes it clear that she’s not really willing to keep fossil fuels in the ground,” said Ben Schreiber, spokesman for Friends of the Earth Action.

“It’s also indicative of her larger campaign, which is that she doesn’t want to talk about the issues any more than she has to,” he continued, listing progressive priorities that she has avoided, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership or a $15 federal minimum wage.

“Climate activists are very skeptical about Hillary Clinton,” Schreiber said.

Her dodges have also given her Democratic opponents opportunities to drive a wedge between themselves and the former first lady.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has begun to rally environmentalists, said her position is indefensible and reminded voters that he led the Democratic fight in the Senate against Keystone.

“It is hard for me to understand how one can be concerned about climate change but not vigorously oppose the Keystone pipeline,” he said in a statement.

Though he didn’t mention Clinton by name, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley raised his opposition to Keystone in an email to supporters of his presidential bid sent shortly after Clinton’s remarks on Monday.

“Real leadership means forging public opinion. Real leadership means taking stands on critical issues,” O’Malley wrote.

“Our climate, our home, is in trouble if we do not act,” O’Malley wrote. “I know where I stand on Keystone XL and I have a plan to end our reliance on fossil fuels by 2050.”

Both Sanders and O’Malley have pledged to cut back on offshore drilling and fight tax breaks that help the oil and natural gas sectors.

In a report last year, the State Department concluded that Keystone would not have a significant impact on the environment, including greenhouse gas emissions.

But many environmentalists question that conclusion, especially amid the plunge in oil prices.

With lower prices, the pipeline could spur more production of Canada’s oil sands than would have happened otherwise, increasing greenhouse gases, they argue.

The Environmental Protection Agency told the State Department in February to re-evaluate its environmental findings to see whether those arguments are true.