Republican U.S. House candidate Rick Berg says the debate over his proposal to drill for oil underneath national parks and federal lands to come up with long-term Social Security funding “was spun out of control, and it’s unfortunate.”
That’s what the Forum’s Kristen Daum reported in a Thursday article pointing out one big fact that was overlooked in the hoopla surrounding Berg’s proposal – and his suggestion that they could drill oil underneath western North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Here’s part of her story – you can find the rest of it, including the political debate surrounding the proposal, on the Forum’s website:
Rick Bergâ€™s suggestion to drill for oil under western North Dakotaâ€™s Theodore Roosevelt National Park has sparked passionate debate, but it already happened.
At least seven wells have extracted nearly 2.3 million barrels of oil from under the parkâ€™s surface since as far back as 1974, according to an analysis of the stateâ€™s oil and gas records by The Forum.
Less than a half-mile south of the parkâ€™s scenic overlook off Interstate 94, a rig pumps oil from mineral deposits that lie more than 9,700 feet beneath the parkâ€™s surface.
The well head sits atop privately owned land outside the parkâ€™s borders, but its pipes bore in a vertical bend underneath Interstate 94 into the park.
At least six other wells once pumped in similar fashion within a four-mile stretch of I-94 just south of the park, according to records from the North Dakota Industrial Commissionâ€™s Department of Mineral Resources.
One of the seven wells outside the national park sits on surface land owned by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation, of which Berg is a board member.
Six of the wells are directional wells, including the one still active. The seventh is a horizontal well.
A horizontal well drills downward and then cuts at a right angle in the ground to bore sideways into an oil deposit. In contrast, a directional well shoots in a crooked bend vertically into the deposit.
One of the wells has been plugged and abandoned, and the five others are â€œtemporarily abandoned,â€ which means the well still exists but extraction is not ongoing, but could start again in the future.
These seven wells stand apart from the multitude of others in the Oil Patch because drilling is forbidden within national park lands with few exceptions.
However, the leases for these wells originated decades before the current federal regulations set in, said Lynn Helms, director of North Dakotaâ€™s mineral resources department.
That means production is allowed to continue underneath the surface of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, even when oil drilling would otherwise be prohibited.
New leases are a different matter.
â€œThese days, park policy wonâ€™t even allow leases to be nominated under federal parks,â€ Helms said.