A federal judge in Des Moines has denied a request for a temporary restraining order to prevent activists from interfering with construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in Iowa.
The ruling on Tuesday by Judge Rebecca Goodgame Ebinger means protests aimed at halting the $3.8 billion pipeline project will apparently proceed Wednesday in rural Boone County. Ed Fallon, a leader of Bold Iowa, one of the anti-pipeline groups, said he anticipates 50 to 100 people will participate in the protests in the Pilot Mound area, and about 20 activists will risk arrest in an effort to halt the pipeline project.
However, the judge has scheduled a hearing Friday on a request by Dakota Access to determine whether a preliminary injunction should be ordered to restrict the activists.
The decision by Goodgame Ebinger to reject the motion for a temporary restraining order concluded that Dakota Access was seeking a “extraordinary and drastic remedy” that should only be issued in exceptional circumstances. Based on the limited court record, Dakota Access failed to make a clear showing that “immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result” prior to a hearing on the company's motion for a preliminary injunction, she wrote.
The Dakota Access petition was aimed at restricting Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Bold Iowa, both of which strongly oppose the pipeline project, as well as “unknown parties.” CCI and Bold Iowa issued defiant statements after the judge's ruling, although both groups have pledged that any protests will be non-violent. However, some activists have said they will engage in civil disobedience in an effort to halt construction of the pipeline.
“We have been in this pipeline fight for over two years, and have vowed to use all of the tools available to us in our fight,” said Adam Mason, state policy director at Iowa CCI. “We will not be deterred or bullied by Big Oil.”
Fallon said the two groups look forward to their day in court on Friday.
Dakota Access, a unit of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, had asked the court to keep protesters at least 25 feet away from the pipeline project, suggesting it would still allow protesters to exercise their First Amendment rights of free speech. The petition also asked the court to prevent activists from physical contact, making threats or harassing construction workers and from interfering with construction.
The petition noted that arson in Jasper and Mahaska counties recently resulted in about $3 million in damage to heavy equipment used on the pipeline project. No arrests have been made.
The pipeline will transport crude oil from North Dakota's Bakken oil patch through South Dakota and Iowa to a distribution hub at Patoka, Ill.