New order puts Keystone pipeline cleanup under EPA oversight

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Owners of the Keystone oil pipeline must complete their cleanup of a massive spill in northern Kansas under oversight of the federal government, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday.

The EPA and TC Energy, which operates the Keystone pipeline, signed a cleanup agreement last week, according to a news release from the EPA.


It requires TC Energy to “recover oil and oil-contaminated soil and vegetation and contain the further spread of oil in Mill Creek.”

“All work required under the order … will be completed under EPA oversight,” the release said.

In a statement, the company said it appreciated the EPA’s “willingness to work cooperatively.”

“We share the EPA’s prioritization of safety and mitigating risk to the environment, and we are committed to complying with the agreement as we progress our response, recovery and remediation,” the company said.

The Keystone pipeline, which carries oil from Canada to Illinois and Texas, spilled 14,000 barrels — or 588,000 gallons — of oil near Washington, a small town along the Kansas-Nebraska border. The spill, which took place in December, is the largest in the pipeline’s history of numerous spills and violations

As of Jan. 2, TC Energy reported it had recovered almost 12,000 barrels of oil from Mill Creek and surrounding areas. Crews responding to the spill will temporarily reroute Mill Creek to accommodate cleanup.

In its release, the EPA said the spill “resulted in vegetation staining near the pipeline rupture, caused a visible sheen on the water and significantly affected fish and wildlife.”

In the hours after the spill, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration ordered TC Energy to shut down the pipeline and investigate the cause of the rupture. The branch of the pipeline that was affected resumed operations in late December.

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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