In the east, where the Marcellus Shale is being drilled as never before by companies seeking to profit from the sale of natural gas, there is a grassroots resistance movement gaining strength. It protests hydraulic fracturing (fracking), a process that uses large amounts of ground water to force methane out of deep sedimentary rock layers, creating some risk of pollution of groundwater and explosions on the surface.
This week, in one of his last acts before taking a summer vacation, Senator Byron Dorgan spoke out against this protest movement. Dorgan urged a careful vetting process – not for fracking, but for people who oppose the drilling technique. Dorgan said,
“In recent years, we have been able to access it with great success. We go down 2 miles, 10,000 feet, with a drill, and then we make a big curve with the same drill and go out 2 miles. So we can go 4 miles, including a curve in the middle, with one drilling rig. Then with a water solution, we initiate hydraulic fracturing to crack open the shale rock to release the oil. I understand that is 2 miles below the surface. It is 100 feet thick. They drill for the middle third of a 100-foot seam 2 miles below the surface. That is how sophisticated it is.
The oil can only be extracted from that deposit by using hydraulic fracturing techniques. The U.S. has been using hydraulic fracturing for 50 years. Some people have raised concerns about what that does to the water table when producing oil or natural gas. There is like chance of doing anything to the water table 10,000 feet below. Hydraulic fracturing has been used for a long time in a way that has not affected the water table. I am very concerned about carefully vetting issues from who have concerns about hydraulic fracturing. I don’t want to shut down a substantial portion of that which can be produced in America to support our country’s need for homegrown energy in the future.”
Why would Byron Dorgan speak in defense of fracking, when most of the resistance to the practice is far away from his home state of North Dakota? Maybe it has to do with some of Dorgan’s friendly history with the natural gas industry. Although Dorgan is not running for re-election this year, he has nonetheless taken $115,450 from the oil and gas industry as if he was still a contender.