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Cortez rally planned to support Standing Rock protest

Native Americans head to a rally at the State Capitol in Denver on Sept. 8 to protest in solidarity with members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota over the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

Organizers in Cortez plan a march this weekend in support of the Dakota Access pipeline protest at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota.

At issue, said the organizers, is the “alleged potential contamination from an oil transport pipeline planned to cross under the Missouri River.”

“The Dakota Access pipeline presents a threat to the water that the tribe depends on,” organizer Heidi Brugger of Cortez said in a news release.

“I know many people in Montezuma County and neighboring areas have sent supplies and donations to the camps; many have gone to North Dakota to lend support too. This is just one more way that people here can show their support for the Standing Rock Sioux — and for clean water everywhere,” Brugger said.

The “Water is Life” rally on Saturday is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. at the Welcome Center parking lot near Main Street and Mildred Road, march around the intersection, and end by the flags at City Park, where guest speakers will address the crowd.

Owned by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile project would carry nearly a half-million barrels of crude oil daily from North Dakota’s oil fields through South Dakota and Iowa to an existing pipeline in Patoka, Illinois, where shippers can access Midwest and Gulf Coast markets. Announced in 2014, supporters said the pipeline would create more markets and reduce truck and oil train traffic — the latter of which has been a growing concern after a spate of fiery derailments of trains carrying North Dakota crude. The pipeline would help cut costs for Bakken region drillers, which have had to turn to more expensive rail shipments when existing pipes filled up.

A lawsuit by the Standing Rock Sioux challenged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to grant permits at more than 200 water crossings. Filed on behalf of the tribe by environmental group Earthjustice, the suit says the project violates several federal laws, including the National Historic Preservation Act, and will disturb sacred sites outside of the 2.3-million acre reservation.

The lawsuit alleged that the pipeline, which would be placed less than a mile upstream of the reservation, could impact drinking water for more than 8,000 tribal members and millions who rely on it downstream. A separate lawsuit filed by the Yankton Sioux tribe in South Dakota challenged the same thing. ETP says the pipeline includes safeguards such as leak detection equipment, and workers monitoring the pipeline remotely in Texas could close block valves on it within three minutes if a breach is detected.

On Sept. 9, a federal judge denied the tribe’s request to stop construction of the pipeline. But the federal government quickly stepped in, stopping work on one section and asking the pipeline company to do the same on a larger 40-mile swath.

The encampment has been called the largest gathering of Native Americans in a century, and the first time all seven bands of Sioux have come together since Gen. George Custer’s 1876 expedition at the Battle of Little Big Horn.

A joint task force of North Dakota and federal officials is investigating a clash between Dakota Access pipeline protesters and private security guards earlier this month, a county sheriff announced Tuesday. The task force also is looking into whether tribal artifacts were disturbed at the site as the Standing Rock Sioux tribe has argued.

The Morton County Sheriff’s Department is heading up the probe of the Sept. 3 incident on private land, after which private security guards and protesters reported injuries. Tribal officials say about 30 protesters were pepper-sprayed and some were bitten by dogs at the construction site near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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