BISMARCK, N.D. -

Court documents indicate a federal judge likely won't decide until early next year whether to give the developer of the Dakota Access oil pipeline permission to finish the $3.8 billion project.
    
That leaves open the possibility a resolution might still come through federal regulators and creates the potential for more weeks of protests and more spent on law enforcement.
    
Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners wants U.S. Judge James Boasberg to declare it can legally lay pipe under the Missouri River in North Dakota.
    
That request came after the Army Corps of Engineers delayed approving such construction this week, calling for more input from the Standing Rock Sioux. The timeline for discussions is unclear.
    
ETP lawyers are proposing a schedule under which a hearing wouldn't be held until Jan. 3.