Colombia halts permitting in areas hit by Lizama oil spill

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Monday, April 9, 2018

Colombia's environmental licensing authority has halted several permit processes for oil and gas exploration fields following a crude spill in northern Santander department.

Anla, as the government agency is known, said the decision affects drilling and production recovery projects in areas surrounding the Lizama 158 well, near Barrancabermeja.

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"As a preventive measure, Anla has suspended several administrative actions until [we] have sufficient technical analysis to determine the absence of risk," the regulator said in a statement.

The leak near Barrancabermeja has killed scores of animals, poisoned vegetation and forced dozens of people to abandon their homes, local officials have said.

According to the well's operator, state-owned Ecopetrol, the spill has been contained and poses no threat to drinking water sources. The company is using a snubbing platform, flown in from the US aboard two Boeing 747 planes, to help permanently seal the leak.

The attorney general's office last week began investigating the cause of the incident, which happened on March 2 but only became public knowledge three weeks later. Public prosecutors and Anla have also launched their own probes.

Environment minister Luis Murillo said on Saturday that the United Nations is monitoring the government's handling of the accident.