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Monroeville defends Marcellus shale seismic testing regulations in court

Dillon Carr
| Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, 1:33 p.m.
An Apex Energy drilling-rig operation
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
An Apex Energy drilling-rig operation

Monroeville's solicitor submitted a 14-page rebuttal to a company's court challenge of the municipality's new laws regulating seismic testing.

Geokinetics Inc. in its complaint said Monroeville's requirements before seismic testing can be done are unfair and asked a judge for a preliminary injunction that would allow it to proceed with testing in the region. Geokinetics, a Texas firm with an office in Canonsburg, was hired by gas and oil exploration company Huntley & Huntley to do testing in a 200-mile radius that includes Monroeville.

Seismic testing to find gas pockets underground is often a first step that leads to Marcellus shale drilling, which is one of the reasons Monroeville adopted its regulations governing the practice in September.

Solicitor Robert Wratcher in papers filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh urged a judge to deny the request for a preliminary injunction.

State environmental laws give municipalities the responsibility to “protect their citizens against activities that potentially have a profound impact upon the environment,” Wratcher said in his court filing.

Geokinetics filed its complaint Oct. 11 . The company said the regulations that require companies to pay $1,000 to obtain a testing permit, notify nearby property owners in advance of testing and obtain a $2 million liability insurance policy were passed for political reasons.

Wratcher's response to the complaint contends:

• Geokinetics skipped the appeals process before filing its case in federal court.

• The company did not show how it would suffer if the court does not grant a preliminary injunction.

• Allowing Geokinetics to conduct seismic testing before allowing the issue to be fully litigated would “cause a greater degree of harm to the residents … than the potential speculative harm (Geokinetics) may incur,” he said.

Monroeville officials, including Wratcher, declined comment. Geokinetics, the attorney who filed the complaint for the company and Huntley & Huntley officials did not respond to requests for comment about the case.

Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2325, dcarr@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dillonswriting.

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