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Marcellus shale testing to start in Perry Township

| Thursday, May 23, 2013, 12:26 a.m.

From spooked cattle to losing underground water, Fayette County residents vented their anxieties Wednesday to a pair of natural gas industry representatives at the Perry Township Volunteer Fire Hall.

The concerns are over seismic testing which uses planted explosives and vibrating trucks to create sound waves that measure Marcellus shale at least 9,000 feet below the surface.

The testing will be conducted in the township and vicinity within the next three weeks.

The testing is part of a 280-square-mile project called “Dogbone 3D” will eventually shift into other municipalities like Dunbar, Jefferson and Washington townships, according to Rod White of McDonald Land Services – the company that will perform the permitting work for testing.

Seismic testing produces underground sound waves to map areas of shale suitable for hydraulic fracturing that, in turn, allows extraction of natural gas and other substances.

White and Mikal Zimmerman, public affairs representative for Chevron, attempted to alleviate the residents' concerns as White gave a Power Point presentation on the testing process to about 30 residents during the informational meeting.

White said the bulk of testing would begin within the next 21 to 28 days and residents should prepare for heavy helicopter traffic. Helicopters are used to airlift equipment onto test sites.

Canadian company CGG Veritas will then perform the actual geological testing, White said, to pinpoint where Chevron would conduct drilling and fracking.

“We are not going to cause damage. That is not in anyone's best interest,” Zimmerman said. “But if, in some case something does happen, we will make sure you are made right. If it is damage that is caused by our operations, we will work with you to make it right.”

However, several cynical residents repeatedly blasted White, stressing concerns that ranged from property rights, to cattle getting spooked by explosions and/or helicopters, to structural damage in their homes.

Ron and Rosemary Matway, who operate a cattle farm on French Island Road in Perryopolis, are fearful for their water supply. Ron Matway said he can hear nearby drilling while sitting inside his home.

“My water, my house, and the road that goes through our property to another bunch of houses,” Ron Matway said when asked what his specific concerns were. “They're using up all our resources way too fast. I don't want to see your kids or our grandkids have to have it hard.”

His wife was more troubled over potential fracking by Chevron, adding McDonald stands to profit from $30,000 to $60,000 per parcel of land.

“We have well water, springs for the cattle, and there have been a lot of problems on other farms,” Rosemary Matway said. “In Washington County, how many cattle died because their pond was contaminated, and nobody was held accountable. Why didn't the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) do anything? Money talks.”

Perry Township Supervisor A.J. Boni said the township is being “pro-active” to inform residents of the imminent operations. The township receives $26,000 in gas drilling impact fees from the state, he said, adding Chevron is under road bond with the township.

“I understand the concerns of the residents and water is very important to us,” Boni said. “We basically want to stay ahead of this a little bit so when you walk out on the street and hear all these rumors that this is going on and that's going on. We wanted to give them the facts from the horse's mouth.”

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbruni@tribweb.com or 724-684-2635.

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