WASHINGTON — US regulators on Friday barred reopening a Canadian-owned oil pipeline after two leaks, as Washington considers whether to approve a controversial extension.
In a notice to Calgary-based TransCanada, a US Department of Transportation official ordered the company to take "corrective measures" after the May leaks on its year-old Keystone pipeline running from Canada into the US Midwest.
Jeffrey Wiese, the associate administrator for pipeline safety, said that a failure to take immediate action "would result in likely serious harm to life, property and the environment." He did not set a date for reopening.
On May 7, a failure along the 2,154-mile (3,467-kilometer) pipeline in North Dakota resulted in the leak of 400 barrels of crude oil, according to the US Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
While TransCanada eventually reopened the pipeline, another incident on May 29 in Kansas caused the leak of 10 barrels of crude, according to the US agency.
The shutdown comes as US authorities consider a proposed 1,661-mile (2,673-kilometer) extension of the pipeline known as the Keystone XL project.
The proposal has been fiercely opposed by many environmental groups as the oil would come from mining in Alberta tar sands, a process that produces far greater emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.
Tony Iallonardo, a spokesman for the National Wildlife Federation in the United States, said the leaks on the initial pipeline highlighted "very serious concerns" with the proposed extension.
"The State Department should shelve the Keystone XL project until TransCanada can show it knows how to safely operate its other one-year-old pipeline," he said.
The Canadian government and the oil industry have advocated approval, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper saying in February that he raised the issue with President Barack Obama.
Harper said the United States clearly needed fossil fuels and should accept energy from "the most secure, most stable and friendliest location it can possibly get that energy, which is Canada," rather than hostile nations.
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