WESTMINSTER - Though she's a from a different tribe and lives in a different state, Sarah Ortegon felt compelled to drive from Denver to North Dakota to join the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
"If we all stand together, that gives us more of a chance to beat the pipeline," Ortegon said.
A company called Energy Transfer is building a 1,170-mile pipeline from western North Dakota to through four states to Illinois to deliver 500,000 gallons of crude oil per day to refineries.
Since April, people of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and from around the nation have been fighting the project, which travels adjacent to the reservation. Ortegon says she's worried about protecting the water since the line is supposed to travel underneath the Missouri River.
"Eventually, all pipelines break," Ortegon said.
On Saturday, she shot cell phone video which she says shows bulldozers destroying a sacred burial ground.
"I was heartbroken to see what was happening because all we're trying to do is protect our water," Ortegon said.
She says protesters did cross the fence onto the construction site, but private security got aggressive.
"They had guard dogs who were barking at everybody and basically, they're letting the guard dogs loose to bite people," Ortegon said.
Doug Flanders is with the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. COGA is not involved in the project, but Flanders says pipelines like this are essential.
"These protests are not about the safety and efficiency of pipelines – but about keeping it in the ground. Anti-oil and gas activists are failing to convince the public to keep oil and gas in the ground. That is why they are diverting their attention to stopping oil and gas from getting to the those who need it," Flanders said in a statement. "Pipelines are a safe and reliable way to ensure that oil and gas is delivered to homes, refineries, and other markets throughout the United States. Protesting pipelines is nothing more than ensuring that more roads will need to be built and more truck traffic will be required to get oil and gas to the American people."
Ortegon says the Dakota Access Pipeline cannot be safe.
"I don't understand how it's the safest way to run it through a water source," Ortegon said.
Flanders says the American public needs to be more understanding of local oil and gas.
"With Iran now trying to market its oil and gas product to Asia, now is the time we must ensure we have the pipeline infrastructure to get oil and natural gas to the west coast so we can export United States oil and natural gas to our friends and allies in Asia so they won’t have to be at the mercy of Iran,” Flanders said in a statement.
Tuesday afternoon, a U.S. district judge ordered that construction be halted temporarily after the alleged destruction of a sacred burial ground. A decision on the project may be issued by Friday.
"Of course, I know that this battle has to be won in court, but we can only do so much to stop it on a daily basis," Ortegon said.
Local law enforcement say that some protesters were armed and it was not safe for officers to intervene in the conflict. No one was injured nor arrested on Saturday.
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