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Jefferson Hills seismic testing must adhere to ordinance

| Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Geokinetics USA Inc. can perform seismic testing in Jefferson Hills — but not on Sundays.

By a 6-0 vote on Monday, council denied the seismic data company's request for a waiver on its work time in the northern part of the borough.

That means testing can be done from 8 a.m. to sunset or 7 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays, and 9 a.m. to sunset or 7 p.m. on Saturdays, as specified in the borough's ordinance. Councilwoman Kathleen Reynolds was absent from the meeting.

Residents expressed concerns last week about Geokinetics' return to Jefferson Hills. The company provides seismic data services to the gas and oil industry, in this case EQT Corp. In 2013, Geokinetics tested in the Floreffe section of Jefferson Hills. This time, work will be in the northern part of the borough.

Geokinetics representatives are seeking residents' permission to conduct testing on their properties, which includes creating shot holes for charges to get readings. Vibrations would show whether drilling would be profitable.

Residents said they worried about a lengthened work week, and disruption of neighborhoods.

Anita Barkin, who helped to start a citizens group against drilling, asked council to protect the community from discord if some residents allowed drilling on their properties if natural gas is found.

“Residential building is loud enough,” said Christine Weir, who moved three years ago to a residential plan that still is undergoing construction.

Angelique Polakovic reminded council members that the borough was heavily mined, and she feared testing or drilling would have an added effect.

“We're obligated to accept a request, but not obligated to approve it,” James Weber, vice president of council, said about the proposed extension of hours.

Weber said he didn't want to set a precedent, so that other companies might have waivers approved.

“We can open a can of worms by approving” the waiver, Allen Cohen, the borough's planning/zoning officer, has said.

Geokinetics personnel have been canvassing neighborhoods, after getting council's permission to return to the borough. In 2013, no permitting process was in place. But with an ordinance approved in July, there is a more defined procedure.

Geokinetics obtained a permit, which lasts for a year. Before the company could begin canvassing, residents in the area had to be notified in writing and a legal ad had to be placed.

Cohen said officials looked at four or five ordinances from across the state, and took the best from each to develop a document for Jefferson Hills.

“Any developer can challenge the ordinance, and we'll defend it,” Cohen said. “We have an ordinance and comprehensive plan.”

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or ddreeland@tribweb.com.

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