Regulators order Keystone Pipeline to investigate after 14,000 barrels spill in Kansas

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The spill is the largest since the pipeline started operating in 2010

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Federal regulators have ordered operators to temporarily shut down part of the Keystone Pipeline in northern Kansas after it spilled 14,000 barrels of crude oil.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued a corrective action order, its strictest enforcement, Thursday evening. 

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Twitter the department is “monitoring and investigating” the leak.

The Keystone Pipeline, owned by TC Energy, runs 2,687 miles from Canada to Texas carrying crude oil. Since it began operations in 2010, it has spilled more than 20 times, often small amounts. At 14,000 barrels — or more than 580,000 gallons — Wednesday’s spill is larger than all its previous ones combined.

The spill occurred close to Washington, Kansas, near the Nebraska border, dumping oil into Mill Creek. Environmental Protection Agency coordinators were dispatched to the scene Thursday along with state and local crews. TC Energy said in a news release Thursday evening that the segment of Mill Creek where the oil spilled had been isolated to prevent it from flowing downstream.

“Our primary focus right now is the health and safety of onsite staff and personnel, the surrounding community, and mitigating risk to the environment,” the company said in a statement, adding that its “efforts will continue until we have fully remediated the site.”

The EPA said Friday the oil was contained within three miles of the pipeline burst and no drinking water had been impacted.

Zack Pistora, a lobbyist for the Sierra Club in Kansas, said it was a “shame that this has happened once again on the Keystone Pipeline.”

“It’s a shame because Mill Creek will probably never be the same,” Pistora said.

The corrective action order says TC Energy must determine the root cause of the failure that caused the oil spill Wednesday, review 10 years of inspections and create a remedial work plan that assesses the risk of spills at other points along the pipeline. It may resume operations only once federal regulators authorize it.

This story is developing and may be updated. 

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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