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Washington — Dakota Access Pipeline will very likely have crude flowing by April 1, but an early March startup now looks unlikely, a lawyer for the 470,000 b/d project said in court Tuesday.

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Lawyer David Debold said crews are about halfway through drilling underneath Lake Oahe, a dammed section of the Missouri River and the last unfinished section of the delayed project.

Dakota Access received the federal easement it needed to start work at Lake Oahe on February 8. If Tuesday remains the halfway point, work would wrap up around March 20.

Judge James Boasberg of the US District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the pipeline company Tuesday to give him 48 hours' notice of the start of oil flowing.

Two North Dakota tribes have asked Boasberg for a preliminary injunction to block the pipeline's startup based on religious grounds.

Boasberg said he wants to make a ruling on that issue before oil begins flowing. He said he was aiming to issue a decision by March 7.

The four-state, $3.8 billion pipeline is designed to deliver Bakken and Three Forks crude to Patoka, Illinois, where it connects with the Energy Transfer Crude Oil Pipeline to Texas.

Energy Transfer Partners, Sunoco Logistics, Phillips 66, Enbridge Energy Partners and Marathon Petroleum own shares in Dakota Access.

--Meghan Gordon,

--Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh,