Fracking Surveyor Hauls Obstinate Town to Court

Taken from a video by oil giant Huntley & Huntley, this image shows how seismic surveyors use sound waves to look for oil and gas beneath layers of rock.

PITTSBURGH (CN) – Saying the small city of Monroeville, Pennsylvania, is hurting its business with strict regulations, fracking surveyor Geokinetics asked a federal judge to intervene.

Just east of Pittsburgh, Monroeville became the area’s third community to regulate seismic testing with a unanimous vote last month by the city council.

In its Oct. 11 complaint filed in in the Western District of Pennsylvania, Geokinetics scoffs at the notion that lawmakers had a valid reason for their interference.

“Upon information and belief, Monroeville’s intransigence is not motivated by any legitimate concerns for the health and safety of its citizens but rather by its council’s concerns about November elections,” the complaint states, filed by Steptoe & Johnson attorney Kevin Gormly.

Otherwise known as hydraulic fracturing, the process of injecting high-pressure mixtures of chemicals into the earth to extract oil and gas from rock was once widely embraced by communities on the gas-rich Marcellus Shale.

In recent years, however, pressure from environmental groups and science connecting fracking to earthquakes has shifted the tides.

Monroeville has not returned a request for comment on the complaint, which paints Geokinetics as an innocent victim caught in political crossfire.

“At issue is solely Geokinetics’ need to collect data using Monroeville roads and rights-of-way through use of vibroseis vehicles, which PennDOT has determined to be safe, and temporary placement of receivers,” the complaint states. “No opening of the surface of the roads is necessary. Geokinetics is willing to post a bond and hold Monroeville harmless against any claims.”

Geokinetics is one of the world’s largest independent land and seafloor geophysical companies, specializing in acquiring and processing seismic data.

It set its sights on Monroeville this year as part of a 191-square-mile project with the oil company Huntley & Huntley Exploration involving Allegheny and Westmoreland counties.

While seismic testing can require the “drilling of shot holes on parcels of land,” according to the complaint, it principally involves the use of sound waves to map rock layers underground.

Geokinetics emphasizes that the minor shock waves caused by its Pennsylvania Department of Transportation-approved vibroseis trucks “virtually preclud[e] damage to the highways,” the complaint states.

Monroeville had no ordinance in place regarding seismic testing, Geokinetics notes, when it first requested permission to use the city’s roads for its survey.

Aiming to complete its survey by February 2018, Geokinetics says it has no option but to get an injunction.

The company’s attorney at Steptoe & Johnson are based in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.

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