Here’s What Hillary Clinton Wants Instead of the Keystone Pipeline

Clinton says she’s focused on boosting climate-change collaboration with Canada and Mexico, and modernizing energy infrastructure.

Hillary Clinton speaks at an award ceremony for the 2015 Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting on March 23 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
National Journal
Ben Geman
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Ben Geman
Sept. 23, 2015, 1:08 p.m.

Hil­lary Clin­ton says she’s a fan of col­lab­or­a­tion with Canada and mod­ern­iz­ing en­ergy in­fra­struc­ture. She just doesn’t want to build the Key­stone XL pipeline that Ca­na­dian lead­ers have furi­ously lob­bied the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to ap­prove.

A day after an­noun­cing her firm op­pos­i­tion to the pro­posed pipeline, Clin­ton on Wed­nes­day laid out a strategy for work­ing with Canada and Mex­ico on glob­al warm­ing, and spur­ring in­vest­ment in more mod­ern power grids, safer oil-and-gas pipelines, and a safer sys­tem for trans­port­ing oil and oth­er haz­ard­ous ma­ter­i­als by rail.

Here’s some of what Clin­ton said on the web­site Me­di­um:

“The United States trades as much en­ergy with Canada and Mex­ico each year as with all oth­er coun­tries com­bined, through a deeply in­teg­rated pipeline net­work, rail sys­tem, and elec­tric­al grid. As Pres­id­ent, I will im­me­di­ately launch ne­go­ti­ations with Canada and Mex­ico to forge a North Amer­ic­an Cli­mate Com­pact that sets strong na­tion­al tar­gets to cut car­bon pol­lu­tion, so all three coun­tries demon­strate a com­mit­ment to cli­mate ac­tion; provides ac­count­ab­il­ity meas­ures, so each coun­try has con­fid­ence that the oth­ers are liv­ing up to their end of the bar­gain; and cre­ates cer­tainty for in­vestors and con­fid­ence in the fu­ture of our cli­mate, so we can all mar­shal re­sources equal to the chal­lenges we face.”

The plan con­trasts Key­stone, which would trans­port crude oil from Al­berta’s oil sands to Gulf Coast re­finer­ies, with build­ing a “clean en­ergy eco­nomy” and safer in­fra­struc­ture.

Clin­ton’s web­site says the pro­posed “North Amer­ic­an Cli­mate Com­pact” with Canada and Mex­ico would seek to build on the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency’s re­cently com­pleted car­bon-emis­sions rules for power plants to “en­sure that na­tion­al car­bon policies take ad­vant­age of in­teg­rated mar­kets.”

One por­tion calls for con­tin­ent-wide tar­gets for con­trolling leaks of the po­tent green­house gas meth­ane. The es­cape of meth­ane from nat­ur­al-gas wells and dis­tri­bu­tion sys­tems is a big prob­lem that erodes some of the ad­vant­ages of us­ing gas to re­place more car­bon-heavy coal as an elec­tri­city source.

Clin­ton’s also call­ing for har­mon­iz­ing the con­tin­ent’s auto-mileage, pol­lu­tion, and fuel stand­ards, and joint strategies for elec­tric-vehicle de­ploy­ment and oth­er ways to curb car­bon emis­sions from trans­port­a­tion.

As for spe­cif­ic U.S. policies, Clin­ton’s plan in­cludes a call for a “na­tion­al in­fra­struc­ture bank that lever­ages pub­lic and private cap­it­al.” However, pro­pos­als from Pres­id­ent Obama and oth­ers for a bank have not gained trac­tion on Cap­it­ol Hill.

Clin­ton notes that more than 2 mil­lion miles of oil and nat­ur­al-gas pipelines are in dis­repair, lead­ing to oil spills, meth­ane leaks, and “dev­ast­at­ing ex­plo­sions.

“I will strengthen na­tion­al pipeline safety reg­u­la­tions and part­ner with pipeline op­er­at­ors, loc­al reg­u­lat­ors, and tech­no­logy pro­viders in re­pair­ing and re­pla­cing thou­sands of miles of the coun­try’s old­est pipes,” she writes.

Her plan would in­sti­tute Na­tion­al Trans­port­a­tion Safety Board pipeline-safety re­com­mend­a­tions on auto­mat­ic or re­mote-con­trolled shutoff valves and leak-de­tec­tion stand­ards, Clin­ton’s cam­paign web­site notes.

Clin­ton’s agenda also ad­dresses the growth in the trans­port of oil by rail­ways, which is an out­growth of lim­ited pipeline ca­pa­city in the Bakken oil field of North Dakota and Canada’s oil sands.

“My plan speeds up the re­tire­ment of the old­est and ris­ki­est train cars, re­pairs track de­fects, and guar­an­tees first re­spon­ders and the pub­lic have bet­ter in­form­a­tion about oil and haz­ard­ous ma­ter­i­als passing through their com­munit­ies,” Clin­ton writes.

Turn­ing to the power grid, the plan would cre­ate a new “threat as­sess­ment team” to help pro­tect the grid from cy­ber­at­tacks.

The post on Me­di­um also re­states Clin­ton’s reas­ons for op­pos­ing Tran­sCanada Corp.’s pro­posed pipeline.

“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,” she writes.

This story has been up­dated.

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