Limits on Surveying, Drilling & Fracking in Allegheny County, PA

by Duane Nichols on October 19, 2017

Proximity of drilling, fracking, seismic surveys of concern

Monroeville (Pennsylvania) puts limits on fracking

From an Article by Dillon Carr, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, October 13, 2017

Monroeville council has approved an ordinance that limits Marcellus shale drilling to heavy industrial zones.

The ordinance was spurred by residents’ concerns that seismic testing planned by a Monroeville oil and gas exploration company would lead to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the area.

Resident and founder of the anti-fracking Sustainable Monroeville advocacy group, Elisa Beck, called the vote a step in the right direction. “We’re all paying attention to make sure we’re protected to maintain fresh and clean water,” she said.

Huntley and Huntley, the company having seismic testing done throughout the region, has said it has no plans for gas wells in Monroeville.

But resident David Mintz, who has expressed support for the zoning amendment, remains uneasy about the possibility of fracking in the municipality. “There’s a lot of residents who live near the industrial area,” he said during a recent council meeting.

Mintz also asked whether the municipality could ban fracking. “We have to allow that activity take place somewhere,” Solicitor Robert Wratcher said. “The trick is in trying to minimize it … we can’t just have a blanket prohibition.”


Fracking Surveyor Hauls Obstinate Town to Court

From an Article by Lana Morelli, Courthouse News, October 13, 2017

PITTSBURGH (CN) – Saying the small city of Monroeville, Pennsylvania, is hurting its business with strict regulations, fracking surveyor Geokinetics asked a federal judge to intervene.

Just east of Pittsburgh, Monroeville became the area’s third community to regulate seismic testing with a unanimous vote last month by the city council.

In its October 11th complaint filed in the Western District of Pennsylvania, Geokinetics scoffs at the notion that lawmakers had a valid reason for their interference.

“Upon information and belief, Monroeville’s intransigence is not motivated by any legitimate concerns for the health and safety of its citizens but rather by its council’s concerns about November elections,” the complaint states, filed by Steptoe & Johnson attorney Kevin Gormly.

Otherwise known as hydraulic fracturing, the process of injecting high-pressure mixtures of chemicals into the earth to extract oil and gas from rock was once widely embraced by communities on the gas-rich Marcellus Shale. In recent years, however, pressure from environmental groups and science connecting fracking to earthquakes has shifted the tides.

Monroeville has not returned a request for comment on the complaint, which paints Geokinetics as an innocent victim caught in political crossfire.

“At issue is solely Geokinetics’ need to collect data using Monroeville roads and rights-of-way through use of vibroseis vehicles, which PennDOT has determined to be safe, and temporary placement of receivers,” the complaint states. “No opening of the surface of the roads is necessary. Geokinetics is willing to post a bond and hold Monroeville harmless against any claims.”

Geokinetics is one of the world’s largest independent land and seafloor geophysical companies, specializing in acquiring and processing seismic data. It set its sights on Monroeville this year as part of a 191-square-mile project with the oil company Huntley & Huntley Exploration involving Allegheny and Westmoreland counties.

While seismic testing can require the “drilling of shot holes on parcels of land,” according to the complaint, it principally involves the use of sound waves to map rock layers underground.

Geokinetics emphasizes that the minor shock waves caused by its Pennsylvania Department of Transportation-approved vibroseis trucks “virtually preclud[e] damage to the highways,” the complaint states.

Monroeville had no ordinance in place regarding seismic testing, Geokinetics notes, when it first requested permission to use the city’s roads for its survey. Aiming to complete its survey by February 2018, Geokinetics says it has no option but to get an injunction.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Douglas Shields October 26, 2017 at 12:25 pm

Industry related web site, “Marcellus Drilling” states:

“The complaint, filed by attorney Kevin Gormly of the energy law firm Steptoe & Johnson, which operates in six states including Pennsylvania, also argues Geokinetics should not be bound by the regulations because the company had applied for a permit before the ordinance was adopted.”

How can you apply for a municipal permit if there was no ordinance requiring such a permit? The spin from the oil & gas industry is consistently bizarre and, often times, makes no sense at all.

What Geokenetics actually requested from Monroeville was permission to enter borough property to conduct their seismic survey. The borough declined that request. Monroeville is under no obligation at all to provide access to municipal property for a commercial use.

No matter if Geokenetics has a required municipal permit or not, Geokenetics must still obtain permission from a property owner to enter public and/or private property. Barring any previous contractual arrangement, no one is under any obligation at all to provide Geokentics with access to their property. If they enter private property without permission, it is trespassing. There is no permit available to trespass.

Douglas Shields, Food & Water Watch


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