(CNN) – Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declined to comment on the ongoing debate over the controversial Keystone XL pipeline at an event Wednesday night in Vancouver.
According to multiple people in the room for Clinton’s speech to the Vancouver Board of Trade's Women's Leadership Circle, the former first lady was asked by Frank McKenna, former Canadian ambassador to the United States and the deputy chairman of TD Bank Group, about her opinion of the prospective pipeline project.
“She was asked to comment on both the climate change legislation in Canada and then it was tied to another question on Keystone,” said Iain Black, the president and CEO of the Vancouver Board of Trade. “She immediately differed to answer the question on Keystone.”
Black said that Clinton declined to comment because she said it would be unfair to her successor at the State Department, John Kerry, who is currently handling the Keystone question.
“She said it just wouldn’t be appropriate to comment,” Black recalled. “She choose her words really carefully.”
Eileen Loewen, a realtor from British Columbia who attended the event with her daughter, added, "She said it would not be appropriate for her to comment because that decision is the responsibility for the State Department, an organization she once led.”
“Her exact words were she feels it would be unfair to comment,” added Cindy Ferrie, a marketing professional in Vancouver.
Instead, all three attendees said Clinton quickly moved from Keystone to discussing the importance of energy cooperation between Canada and the United States, including renewable and clean energy.
“She talked about the importance about being on the same page, but didn’t mention Keystone directly,” said Black, who was the first speaker of the night at the media camera-free event.
The Keystone XL pipeline has been a hot button issue since it was first proposed in 2008, and more recently as President Barack Obama mulls whether to approve the 1,179 mile pipeline that would move oil through Canada and the United States.
Last month, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said that during a meeting with President Barack Obama, the president indicated he would decide whether to go forward with the Keystone XL pipeline in the next couple of months.
Because the pipeline moves across the U.S.-Canadian border, the State Department has taken the lead on the project.
Despite the fact that Clinton was tasked with approving the project while serving as Obama’s Secretary of State, her opinion on the pipeline is unclear.
In a 2010 speech to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Clinton was asked a question about Keystone and said, “We've not yet signed off on it. But we are inclined to do so and we are for several reasons,” according to the Washington Post.
But under Clinton’s watch in 2012, the State Department denied a bid to expand the Keystone pipeline. At the time, however, the State Department said it needed to further review the environmental impacts of the pipeline and that the denial does not "preclude any subsequent applications."
Earlier this year, a report from the State Department concluded that building the Keystone pipeline would have little climate impact.
Keystone was only a short portion of Clinton’s remarks in Vancouver, according to those inside the room. Because she was speaking to a women’s group, organizers said Clinton tailored most of her speech to women’s issues, including participation in politics and business.
Nicole Stefenelli, the founder and CEO of Urban Impact, a recycling company in British Columbia, said as a female CEO, the remarks were inspiring.
“It was a great evening,’ Stefenelli said. “She said listen to the criticism you receive and try to understand the motive and see if there is a shred of truth that you can learn from it.”
And after watching the remarks, many women in the room were confident that Clinton was not done with politics.
“Let there be no doubt about it,” Loewen said. “That woman is running for the President of the United States.”