BISMARCK — The North Dakota Supreme Court dealt a blow to a state board seeking to prevent a Dakota Access Pipeline security firm from operating in the state without a license Thursday, Aug. 22, but the legal fight may not be over.
The justices unanimously upheld a lower court ruling dismissing the Private Investigation and Security Board's request for an injunction against North Carolina-based TigerSwan. The board filed a complaint in mid-2017 alleging the firm conducted private investigative and security services without a license during the massive Dakota Access Pipeline protests, which would be a Class B misdemeanor.
A district court judge dismissed the board's claims last year because the company claimed it voluntarily left North Dakota and didn't plan on returning. TigerSwan argued it was hired merely as a consultant to Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the $3.8 billion oil pipeline.
The pipeline went into service in 2017 after thousands protested its construction near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The line's operator is now seeking to significantly increase its capacity.
The Supreme Court also affirmed the lower court's denial of TigerSwan's motion for sanctions and attorney fees.
Monte Rogneby, an attorney for the board, said an administrative case seeking up to $2 million in fines is still in play. He said the board will likely discuss its options at an Aug. 30 meeting.
"Everything that we've done so far has just been procedural — what court should we be in?" Rogneby said. "Now the Supreme Court has told us that we need to be in the administrative arena."
TigerSwan Chairman and CEO Jim Reese previously said the North Dakota case could affect their efforts to obtain licenses elsewhere.
The company's attorney, Lynn Boughey, hoped the board would "finally come to grips with what they should have done from day one and not come after TigerSwan," calling its efforts a waste of state resources.