Judge James Boasberg of the US District Court for the District of Columbia denied a request Friday for an injunction to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline, ordering the parties to file a joint status report on how to proceed. Judge Boasberg said that the plaintiff, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, failed to show that irreparable harm would result from the pipeline’s continued operation.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is responsible for transporting 570,000 barrels of oil per day from North Dakota to market. Operated by Energy Transfer LP, the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile pipeline began operations in 2017 after months of heated protests by environmentalists and Native American tribes.
The suit comes after a decision by Judge Boasberg last year which barred the pipeline from crossing under Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir near the Standing Rock reservation.
The group representing the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Earthjustice, argued that the pipeline is too dangerous to continue its operations and that the risk of an oil spill impacts not only nearby tribes, but the environment as a whole. On the other side, Energy Transfer said they have complied with all regulatory and safety requirements throughout the process.
In describing how the tribe has failed to clear the “daunting hurdle” of showing a likelihood of irreparable injury, Judge Boasberg wrote in his opinion:
The Court acknowledges the Tribes’ plight, as well as their understandable frustration
with a political process in which they all too often seem to come up just short. If they are to win their desired relief, however, it must come from that process, as judges may travel only as far as the law takes them and no further. Here, the law is clear, and it instructs that the Court deny Plaintiffs’ request for an injunction.
In April, North Dakota had filed a motion to intervene, arguing that the Biden administration is not a zealous advocate of the continued operation of the pipeline. Department of Justice lawyers previously said that they would not rule out future enforcement that would halt the pipeline’s operations. Judge Boasberg denied this motion on Friday as well.