Murrysville officials say no shale gas testing taking place on municipal land

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Murrysville Councilman David Perry last week dismissed citizen concerns that geo-testing for shale deposits was being done on municipal land with the consent of council. Saying several residents have asked him privately about seismic testing, Mr. Perry said he wanted to clarify the issue at the public meeting.

"Apparently there were some comments at a council meeting in Export that we are encouraging geo-testing on municipal rights of way. I have had my ear bent a couple of times," Mr. Perry said during the council meeting Sept. 4.

A quick poll of his colleagues revealed they had no knowledge of testing activity, either.

Mr. Perry said he was told ION Geophysical Corp. wants to use municipal rights of way for testing."Currently there is no testing going on with municipal consent. But I anticipate this coming forward in the future. I am not anti-drilling by any stretch, but a lot of people in Murrysville are against it.

"I do think people should be aware that their private agreements with the testing company do not address restoring property damage and are not that profitable. I believe the offer was for five dollars per acre. I would advise people to be aware of what kind of deal they are getting," Mr. Perry said.

Council President Joan Kearns echoed his comments. "There is no testing going on municipal land or roads. State roads may be another story, but we do not have control over state-owned property," Ms. Kearns said.

"There are shallow wells in Murrysville and there always have been, but there are no Marcellus or unconventional wells at this time."

Ms. Kearns said many people are not aware of the impact to the land that comes along with geo-testing.

"We had a seminar on pipelines and seismic testing in July and it was a bit of an eye-opener. People are simply not aware of the amount of disturbance that occurs, even with seismic testing," she said. Seismic testing is a process used to locate natural gas, among other things.

According to Mr. Perry, who is a geologist, the testing sends sound waves down through the earth to the rock formations below. A set of receivers called geo-phones pick up the reflected signals at the surface. The reflected signals are used to create a profile of the underground rock formations. Shale deposits are usually horizontal and therefore easy to identify, he said.

In 2011 Murrysville passed an ordinance to regulate exploration and extraction of natural gas from shale formations. There are two gas recovery districts in the northern and southern sections of the municipality that are zoned for Marcellus gas exploration and production. However, Mr. Perry and Ms. Kearns both cautioned that local regulations may be overruled by state law in the future.

Currently, legislation governing shale gas drilling (Act 13) is being reviewed by the state Supreme C ourt. If Act 13 is upheld, the municipality may have no control over the regulation of shale gas drilling.

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Tim Means, freelance writer:


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