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Crowd hears seismic survey plans for the Mon Valley area

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Thursday, March 28, 2013, 4:11 a.m.
 

EQT Corp. plans three-dimensional seismic surveys in a 68-square-mile area from Pleasant Hills to Donora.

Principal EQT geophysicist Joel G. Starr said Wednesday that Cougar Land Services of Stafford, Texas, and Geokinetics of Houston will map out the geology of the Earth “about a mile down.”

In handouts at a Jefferson Hills meeting, EQT said surveys will determine the most efficient and responsible way to develop gas reserves using the fewest number of wells.

“We're drilling actively in Forward Township,” said Nathan Anderson of EQT. “We take care of what we have to in an economic and efficient manner.”

EQT's new focus is on an area that also includes all or part of Clairton, Elizabeth, Finleyville, Monongahela, New Eagle, and Carroll, Rostraver, South Park, Union and Peters townships.

“We're hoping to be complete with this, to get a recording around the first of August,” Jimmy Jeffcoat of Geokinetics said.

The borough stressed that seismic testing is permitted and regulated solely by the state Department of Environmental Protection and that property owners reserve the right to allow any activity or passage onto their lands.

Starr compared the work to “a sonogram of the Earth,” earning derision from some at the meeting.

“I can't tell you how many sonograms I have had,” Anita Barkin said, “and I've never used dynamite.”

EQT, Cougar and Geokinetics representatives said small 2.2-pound charges may be needed to drill shot holes.

That's only for areas where what EQT calls Vibroseis units cannot be reached to create seismic waves.

Still, a resident said, “I did not build a brand new home to lose 40 percent of the value when the drillers come in.”

She joined Barkin and others who walked out after an hour. They plan to ask Jefferson Hills council for a moratorium on seismic testing.

“We have to rely on the government and our representatives to protect us from you,“ said Barkin, who served on a committee tasked with developing a drilling ordinance.

“The task force voted out an ordinance with regulations that were intended to be defensible in court,” borough planner/zoning director Allen Cohen said. That ordinance was set aside after state lawmakers passed Act 13 of 2012.

Cohen and public works director Tom Lovell represented the borough at the meeting requested by EQT.

“I came here to learn what these gentlemen want to do,” Lovell said.

It was the third meeting the EQT group has held so far.

“This was probably the most challenging we've run into,” said EQT manager of community relations Nathanial Manchin.

The borough officials also had their problems, starting with a “cold call” the partners made earlier this month.

Cohen said borough officials did not realize the survey effort had started “until phone calls came in” from residents.

“There has been some disturbing information that has been reported to me in these phone calls,” the planner said.

Those opposed to the seismic testing said anyone interested can find out about what is planned on the Internet.

“I see a lot of bad things on the Internet,” Keith Pucalik of White Oak said after the walkout. “Are there good things you can point to where you have done due diligence?”

Jeffcoat pointed to what had been done recently in Colorado.

“It really is a low-impact operation,” Manchin said. “We get good cooperation from 85 percent of the population.”

In the EQT handout, company officials said they are committed to safeguarding the environment, protecting the health and safety of its employees and community neighbors, and taking steps to avoid utility lines or other areas that would be sensitive to seismic activity.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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