Monroeville, PA Passes Restrictive Seismic Testing Ordinance
Monroeville, PA (Allegheny County, suburb of Pittsburgh) voted last night to restrict seismic testing within municipal boundaries–a move meant to restrict future shale well drilling in the area by Huntley & Huntley. In a July story, MDN brought you the news that Cougar Land Services, a subcontractor working with Huntley & Huntley, is planning to conduct seismic testing in two rural areas of the municipality, including “small portions” of Monroeville’s northernmost and southernmost tips (see H&H: Seismic Testing Coming to Monroeville, Not to Oakmont). Monroeville Council voted in early August to publish a draft of its new seismic testing ordinance for 30 days of public comment, prelude to a final vote (see Monroeville, PA Close to Passing Restrictive Seismic Testing Ord.). The restrictions are meant to hassle anyone wanting to conduct seismic testing, i.e. Huntley & Huntley. Which is kind of sad, as H&H is headquartered in Monroeville. Kind of like spitting in the company’s face. Last night Monroeville hawked up a huge wad of phlegm and let a big one fly in the face of H&H. Not to worry. If the ordinance “is outside the state parameters,” H&H intends to sue. Just to add insult to injury and let the Marcellus industry know how unwelcome they truly are, the council also voted to put a new ordinance on the agenda that pretty much blocks all Marcellus Shale drilling throughout the municipality…
Monroeville is now the third governmental body in the Pittsburgh area to regulate seismic testing.
Council adopted the regulations with a 9-0 vote at a Tuesday night meeting. Key parts of the ordinance require companies to:
• Obtain a one-year permit for $1,000 and notify the municipality 30 days before any testing begins. The company must also put $5,000 in escrow to cover costs associated with granting a permit.
• Have a $500,000 performance bond guaranteeing completion of the work and a $2 million general liability insurance policy covering the municipality.
• Notify property owners within 150 feet of testing, 100 feet of vibrating tests and 300 feet of explosive charge tests 30 days before any work occurs.
Communities have started to regulate seismic testing because it usually precedes the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking – a process of extracting gas by injecting rock with high-pressure water, sand and chemicals.
South Fayette adopted an ordinance regulating the testing in 2012 and Oakmont passed a similar ordinance in July.
A Monroeville oil and gas exploration company, Huntley & Huntley, has hired a company to do seismic testing in the region. President Keith Mangini said before the ordinance was passed that his company would challenge regulations if it determined they were more stringent than what is allowed under state law. He has also said that his company does not plan to do Marcellus shale drilling in Monroeville.
“We are weighing the options available to us in light of the action of Monroeville council,” Huntley & Huntley Vice President Paul Burke, who is also an attorney for the company, said in an email Wednesday. “We are disappointed that municipal council took an action last night that will negatively impact a company that has been headquartered in Monroeville for decades and that approached the permitting process with the municipality for this seismic survey in an open and transparent manner.”
He added that the ordinance sends a message to the business community that “can in no way be construed as favorable.”
In other action related to oil and gas development at the meeting, council voted to advertise an amended ordinance that would restrict companies from Marcellus shale drilling in all but heavy industrial zones. The amendment could be adopted as early as council’s Oct. 10 meeting, Solicitor Robert Wratcher said.
Monroeville now allows drilling anywhere in the municipality.
Manager Tim Little said the amendment was spurred by residents’ recent concerns that seismic testing would lead to fracking in Monroeville. The vote to advertise proposed restrictions on drilling drew applause from the audience at the meeting.
“I think it was brilliant,” said Elisa Beck, a Monroeville resident and founder of Sustainable Monroeville, an environmental advocacy group.*
So anti-fossil fuel nutters have taken over in Monroeville. Kind of sad.
*Pittsburgh (PA) Tribune-Review (Sep 13, 2017) – New Monroeville law puts limits on pre-fracking tests