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Bakken Pipeline Owners Wanted To Interfere With A Protest Before It Happened. A Judge Said No.

A protest in Iowa is expected today.

Actress Shailene Woodley, third from left to right, filmmaker Josh Fox, actress Susan Sarandon and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe member Bobbi Jean Three Lakes, at a rally outside the US District Court in Washington. CREDIT: AP/MANUEL BALCE CENETA
Actress Shailene Woodley, third from left to right, filmmaker Josh Fox, actress Susan Sarandon and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe member Bobbi Jean Three Lakes, at a rally outside the US District Court in Washington. CREDIT: AP/MANUEL BALCE CENETA

The developers of an oil pipeline that has triggered mass protests in North Dakota because of its plan to cut through four Midwestern states were denied a restraining order on Tuesday for a protest that is yet to happen in Iowa.

The ruling comes as Iowa groups have said in the past few days they would protest a Dakota Access pipeline construction site in Boone County, north of Des Moines, Wednesday. This week, the developer moved to get a temporary restraining order against some advocacy groups, individuals, and “unknown parties,” and then hopes to get a much stronger injunction in another court hearing Friday.

Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, asked the court to keep protesters at least 25 feet away from the pipeline project. The company also asked the court to stop protesters from threatening workers and interfering with construction. That comes as some $3 million worth of damages to equipment were reported in two Iowa counties following an alleged arson attack. No arrests have been made so far, the Des Moines Register reported.

“There is no indication the protest will be violent or cause harm to Dakota Access employees,” Judge Rebecca Goodgame Ebinger said in court documents, noting a temporary restraining order is an “extraordinary and drastic remedy to be issued only in exceptional circumstances.”

The $3.8 billion project has faced growing opposition in recent months, particularly in North Dakota, where developers agreed to halt construction near where the Cannonball and Missouri rivers meet as a federal court decision is pending. That site rallied international attention this month when Native American protests that have been ongoing for months grew into the thousands. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and others say the pipeline will damage sacred sites and threaten the drinking water of millions of people.

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In Iowa, the opposition has come mainly from environmentalists and landowners who say the pipeline is a threat to wildlife and farmland. But after months of lawsuits Iowa landowners have for the most part lost. Just late last week Iowa regulators said construction could continue after issuing a short-lived halt.

Landowners are still pushing through courts, and protests seem to be brewing. This opposition in Iowa, together with the massive Native American pressure in North Dakota, makes the growing movement against the so-called Bakken pipeline somewhat resemble the anti-pipeline sentiment that Keystone XL inspired.

If it were to grow even larger, the movement could even resemble the massive protests Canada has experienced over the past few years. There, some First Nations and environmentalists have objected to further developing Canada’s tar sands oil region, the third-largest oil deposit in the world, as well as pipeline development in the country with some success. However, that scale of opposition is yet to be seen in this case, though it is mounting as scores of celebrities and even former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), have said they oppose the project.

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Approved by states and federal agencies earlier this year, the Bakken pipeline is scheduled to be the largest oil line coming out of North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields, the country’s most active fields thanks to the fracking boom. The line is about as long as the rejected Keystone XL, and would move up to 570,000 barrels of sweet crude oil daily through the Dakotas and Iowa before it reaches a distribution hub in Patoka, Illinois.

Critics have long said the pipeline will eventually leak, which would severely pollute thousands of miles of fertile farmland, forests, and the various waterways it will traverse. Documents submitted to federal agencies have said the Bakken Pipeline avoids “critical habitat,” and the developers also says the project is safe; all while supporters say the pipeline will create thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenue.

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The Bakken pipeline is roughly 48 percent complete, officials said during a recent court hearing, and the line is scheduled to start delivering oil in January.