Morgan Gas Pipeline

(Reuters) – A nearly-complete $2.3 billion pipeline to carry natural gas from West Texas shale fields to the U.S. Gulf Coast can move ahead, a U.S. judge in Austin, Texas, ruled on Friday, rejecting an environmental group’s effort to halt the project.

Legal challenges have delayed the Dakota Access, Keystone XL, and Trans Mountain oil pipelines, and led to a cancellation of the Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline.

The proposed Kinder Morgan line would bring 2.1 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas from West Texas to the Gulf Coast. Service could begin in January.

“Unfortunately, in this state of completion of the pipeline, issuing an injunction would not ring the bell,” he wrote in his decision, adding that Sierra Club “has not established a definitive threat to future damage.”

The preliminary injunction request, part of a larger legal challenge to the project at the court, was based on what the plaintiffs described as the likelihood of violations of the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The request said Kinder Morgan’s construction activities will do “irreparable harm” to warblers, impact Central Texas’ oak forest, and diminish the quality and quantity of water in the Edwards Aquifer, among other things.

The district court ruled that the request again failed to show irreparable harm to the warblers. The court said other impacts described by the plaintiffs, such as the spread of oak wilt, a disease that harms oak trees, were “speculative.” The court held its preliminary injunction hearing March 4 and handed the signed decision March 19.