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Vandergrift warns Texas firm about shale mapping

| Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, 1:12 a.m.

Vandergrift officials are warning a Texas company not to circumvent their denial of a Marcellus shale-mapping program by going directly to residents.

After council denied a request from Ion GX Technology to conduct mapping operations in the borough, residents began receiving permit request letters from the company.

Vandergrift has sent a “cease and desist” letter from Solicitor Larry Loperfito to the company, according to council President Brian Carricato.

“Any testing that you conduct that has any negative or adverse effect upon the Borough of Vandergrift, in any way, however slight, will be dealt with immediately and appropriately,” the letter states.

“We place you on notice that you have no right to conduct any testing that would, in any way, however slight, affect any property owned by the Borough of Vandergrift, including public rights of way and/or lands owned by the Borough of Vandergrift.”

Jerry Lawson, director of land operations for Ion, said on Wednesday he had not seen the letter from Loperfito. He said the company chose to wait until after the Christmas holiday to schedule a meeting with borough officials.

Ion representatives this year have been visiting many Alle-Kiski Valley municipalities.

The company plans to produce a three-dimensional map of the Marcellus formation over a 281-square-mile area, covering nearly all of central and southern Armstrong County and crossing into parts of Westmoreland and Indiana counties.

While the mapping project is under way, Lawson said permitting has gone “very slow,” and it has been delayed because of that.

Carricato said Vandergrift officials were concerned that the work, which includes sending vibrations through the ground, could damage underground utilities, such as the sewage system.

Carricato said council's refusal of the company's request to conduct seismic testing on public streets, land and rights of way was based on the advice of the borough's attorney and engineer.

“Now they're sending out letters to the residents individually asking for personal permission,” he said. “I received one. I threw it away.”

The “seismic mineral permit request” states that GX Technology Corp. is asking for permission “to conduct a three-dimensional seismic survey over the following described property in which you either own mineral rights or an oil and gas lease.”

Frank Souchack, who has lived on Washington Avenue for 30 years, was among those who received a letter.

“It just sounded shady to me,” he said. “They went to the borough and the borough turned them down, and then they send these individual letters out.

“I didn't have good vibes when I got the letter. It didn't sound good to me.”

Souchack said he threw the letter away, as have other residents he has spoken with to about it.

“People are probably being deceived, expecting they'll receive some kind of reward or income from drilling sites if they find something,” he said. “I don't think it's a worthwhile thing for me as a homeowner to sign.”

Loperfito said local Ion representatives have agreed to meet with Vandergrift officials.

“We have to find out what this is all about,” he said. “This technology is new to us, and we have to understand what they're proposing to our residents.”

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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