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Delmont officials won't permit 'thumper' testing on public land

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By Daveen Rae Kurutz
Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, 6:55 p.m.
 

When thumper trucks take to Route 66 in coming weeks to begin mapping gas pockets in Delmont, they won't be getting any assistance from borough officials.

Delmont officials said they won't permit companies to place listening devices along 17 borough-owned properties in Delmont, Salem and Murrysville.

“We're one square mile,” Mayor Gill Sanchez said. “What difference is it going to make for them?”

Borough officials were approached during the summer by Ion GX, a Texas-based mapping company that is developing geotechnical maps for drillers interested in tapping into the Marcellus shale formation beneath Westmoreland County. Officials refused to allow testing on borough land then and last week said they have no intention of helping the various companies involved in the process.

Seismic testing is a type of geophysical testing used to find natural gas pockets. The same process is used to predict earthquakes. There are two types of seismic testing commonly used for oil and gas exploration. Both are occurring in the region.

In two-dimensional testing, large, four-wheeled trucks called thumper trucks use a large vibrating pad along roads to create sound waves that are received by listening devices set along the ground. In two-dimensional seismic testing, probes and explosive charges are detonated in the ground to create a map of where fault lines are underground.

Officials said they were worried about how deep the holes being dug on private property for small explosives used in the seismic testing would be, as well as where in the borough devices would be placed.

Council Vice President Andy Shissler said that placement, even of the listening devices, worries him.

“For all we know, they could want to put them on home plate at Shield's Farm,” Shissler said.

The borough would have been paid $900 had officials allowed the listening devices, Solicitor Dan Hewitt said. Otherwise, there are no benefits for the borough, he said.

“It benefits the gas company and the underlying owners of the mineral rights,” Hewitt said. “We know from our investigations there is no benefit for the borough. We were hoping there were mineral rights with Shield's Farm we could get revenues from.”

The testing — which also is occurring in Murrysville and Export — is conducted by Tesla Explorations. Residents might have dealt with Greensburg-based Cougar Land Services, a land-use company that solicited property owners on behalf of Tesla. Ultimately, the information gathered by Tesla will be converted into maps by Ion.

Tesla did not respond before this story's deadline to a request for comment.

Though officials don't want to cooperate, they can't stop the process from occurring within the borough.

Route 66 is a state road, and PennDOT has granted the companies permission to conduct seismic testing. Borough officials can't restrict that, Hewitt said.

“Be forewarned, there's going to be these big thumper trucks on 66, 22 and wherever PennDOT has let them be,” Hewitt said.

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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