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Seismic testing company that worked in Warren County headed to court
January 9, 2014 - Ben Klein
Geokinetics, the seismic testing company that came through Warren County in May 2011 with "thumper trucks" to test for oil and gas, will return to court in February for reconsideration of their work for EQT Corporation in Allegheny County.
A Geokinetics employee told me in May 2011 the seismic test for oil and gas is "the world's greatest detective game."
By Patrick Cloonan, Tribune-Review, Associated Press
An Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge agreed to reconsider her order allowing EQT Corporation to conduct seismic testing on 70 properties covering more than 1,800 acres in Forward Township.
On Wednesday Judge Christine A. Ward granted a request by attorney C. James Zeszutek and scheduled arguments for Feb. 7 at 9:30 a.m. in her Pittsburgh courtroom.
“We’re pleased with what happened,” said Zeszutek, who represents the owners of Riverview Golf Course and 69 other properties located within what EQT calls its Bunola storage pool.
Zeszutek said the hearing is important to determine if irreparable harm was done by seismic testing already done on the properties.
On Dec. 26, Ward issued a preliminary injunction allowing seismic testing in Forward.
She enjoined the property owners from interfering with EQT Production Company’s reasonable ingress, egress, access to and use of properties covered by 16 oil and gas leases.
“EQT is likely to have the right under those leases to perform (three-dimensional) seismic testing with explosives,” Ward wrote in a memorandum dated Monday that expanded upon the order.
Zeszutek is one of three attorneys from Dinsmore & Shohl LLP working with the property owners, who call themselves the Monongahela Group.
“The Monongahela Group has unreasonably refused to allow EQT to enter upon their respective properties for the purpose of conducting reasonable and customary seismic testing,” attorneys from the firm of Meyer, Unkovic & Scott LLP said in filing on behalf of EQT on July 13.
The attorneys led by Patricia L. Dodge pressed a case targeting leases that were signed as late as 2011, but in one case was the successor to a lease signed in 1899.
Many of the leases date back to the 1940s and 1950s.
“The terms of these existing leases have already been negotiated,” EQT spokeswoman Linda Robertson wrote in an email this week. “Producers have been investing in these leases for years by drilling and paying royalties to the lessors based on their individually signed lease agreement.”
EQT and its attorneys could not be reached for comment at presstime about Wednesday’s ruling.
EQT and its partner Geokinetics USA Inc. have been seeking to conduct seismic testing throughout the South Hills. That caused extensive discussion last year in Jefferson Hills as well as Forward.
In her Dec. 26 decision, Ward ordered EQT to post a $25,000 bond.
“It provides coverage in the unlikely event that any damage may occur,” Robertson wrote this week.
At this week’s meeting of the Forward board of supervisors, four of the property owners argued that testing was going on before the order was issued.
They said the posted bond was hardly enough to cover potential damage to their properties, particularly to water resources.
Zeszutek declined to talk about specifics, but in his request to Ward he questioned whether EQT fulfilled six “essential prerequisites” for the injunction.
He asked if an injunction would substantially harm other interested parties.
He suggested that EQT needed to prove “that a preliminary injunction will not adversely affect the public interest.”
The Monongahela Group properties are not the only ones on which EQT seeks to drill in Forward. The company has five wells on what is known as the Oliver East tract and three on the Oliver West tract near Pangburn Hollow Road.
All are horizontal or unconventional wells aimed at shale deposits. Many area communities have vertical or conventional drilling, but Forward is the only one in this area with unconventional wells.
EQT confirmed this week that the state Department of Environmental Protection had granted permits for nine more wells on the Oliver West tract. Seven will tap the Marcellus shale; two will tap the Genesee shale found above the Marcellus shale.
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Times Observer photos by Brian Ferry Four Geokinetics trucks use vibration-generating equipment to take a seismic look beneath Route 62 in North Warren in May 2011.