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North Huntingdon ordinance could regulate seismic testing

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By Amanda Dolasinski
Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Residents in the southwestern portion of North Huntingdon might receive requests for permission for people to get on their property in order for a land company to complete seismic testing.

The tests are necessary for natural-gas companies to determine the best locations to drill. Commissioners are considering an ordinance to regulate seismic testing in the township.

“If they put a charge in the ground, we want to limit how much,” said Mike Turley, assistant township manager.

The ordinance — which was scheduled for a vote yesterday, Wednesday — would require any land-surveying company to obtain a permit from the township before they could use explosives, weight drops, thumper trucks or any vibrating machines.

“They put a small charge in the ground,” Turley said. “It sounds like a muffled gunshot.”

Seismic testing uses underground sound waves to map hydrocarbon areas that could be suitable for hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, to extract natural gas from the Marcellus shale formation. The data is sold to drilling companies to determine the best places to drill for gas.

The charge travels about 150 feet from the action source, Turley said. The proposed ordinance that township commissioners have been considering would set a buffer zone of 300 feet from any building.

Any resident within 300 feet of the action source would have to be notified in writing, Turley said. The land company also would have to obtain written permission from a homeowner to be on the property for testing, he said.

Turley said the survey company seems to be interested in areas south of Route 30 and near Braddocks Trail in North Huntingdon. Residents living in the 3rd and 4th wards might be approached by the company for permission to get on property for testing.

Testing would be restricted to 8 a.m. to the earlier of sunset or 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to the earlier of sunset or 7 p.m. Saturdays. After the ordinance is passed, a land survey company could apply to the township for a permit, which is valid for one year.

Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626.

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