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Jefferson Hills officials approve seismic testing at Beedle Park

| Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Jefferson Hills leaders will allow Geokinetics USA Inc. to test for gas under the community's largest park, though council members say they don't necessarily support drilling in the borough.

“If this motion passes, it's just for basic testing to see if there is gas below that particular part,” council member Tracey Khalil said. “It doesn't mean we are authorizing any drilling.”

Council voted 3-1 last week to accept an agreement with Geokinetics, based in Canonsburg, to conduct a seismographic survey in Beedle Park on July 8. Kathleen Reynolds dissented. Council President Chris King and members Vickie Ielase and Janice Cmar were absent.

Seismic testing in Beedle Park is set to begin in October, said EQT Corp. Media Relations Manager Linda Robertson. EQT hired Geokinetics to conduct testing.

“There is nothing definitive beyond that at this point,” Robertson said. “The premise of seismic testing is to determine if an area is economically viable for drilling.”

The survey will be completed via radio-like devices that vibrate the ground to test for natural gas. Council prohibited the use of explosives or shot hole drilling. Geokinetics will pay a $642 permit fee and there will be a bond for borough roads if workers damage the property.

“The exploration of the gas deposits identifies where the gas may be, but that may not necessarily be the site where the drilling is going to be,” planning and zoning director Allen Cohen said. “They can drill a mile and a half away and capture that gas. They could be drilling in Union Township, Washington County, or in Forward and capturing gas (in Jefferson Hills).”

A company applying to do geophysical testing on private property must submit a letter of intent to the borough manager, then announce its intent to canvass for sites. EQT, based Downtown, confirmed that it is canvassing private properties for seismic testing and has obtained necessary borough permits.

No public comment was made at the meeting concerning the testing. Anita Barkin, who is among a group of concerned residents against drilling, said she was unaware that testing was approved.

“I guarantee you that if we knew we were going to pass the agreement and the ordinance, the concerned citizens group would have been there,” Barkin said.

A public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Aug. 14 at the municipal building to address an ordinance for the zoning of oil and gas operations.

Brittany Goncar is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or bgoncar@tribweb.com.

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