Before drilling companies start fracking, they need to know there’s enough gas in an area to turn a profit. That’s why they do what is called seismic testing. But what if local residents and community leaders band together to protect themselves from the fracking industry? That’s what is happening in Allegheny County.
We know the profound dangers fracking poses to clean air and water—that’s why communities need to find ways head off fracking before it starts. A seismic survey involves the use of explosive charges, setting off between 10 to 30 pounds of explosives in a deep bore hole. By measuring seismic waves, companies can predict where gas may be trapped.
So when the drilling company Huntley & Huntley announced that it would conduct surveying in a 200-square mile area of eastern Allegheny County, the news alarmed many residents. These surveys can disrupt traffic and cause property damage, and have been known to crack or break sewer lines, and damage private water wells. Seismic surveys often require crews to enter private property; in some cases, companies have either failed to get permission to do so, or have given homeowners inadequate information about the potential risks associated with surveying.
Of course, the biggest danger is that the surveyors find recoverable gas—because that means fracking could be next.
The town of Oakmont received word in late May that Huntley & Huntley was interested in surveying their town. Within days, Food & Water Watch was meeting with local officials to explain how they could best protect their residents. We shared with them a seismic ordinance passed in South Fayette, a town that has heroically battled the drilling industry.
On July 3, the Oakmont Council unanimously enacted a new seismic testing ordinance. It requires public notice of any proposed testing in writing, and free inspections for possible property damage after the testing. A surveying company would need to hire a licensed engineer to monitor all operations, and would also be required to acquire local maps for water wells, hazardous waste storage, and sewer lines.
Just days after the council took action, Huntley & Huntley decided it was no longer interested in surveying Oakmont.
But the company was still eyeing other towns in the area. In Monroeville, Food & Water Watch is working with the local group Sustainable Monroeville to introduce an ordinance regulating surveying that is already underway. In the coming weeks, the town council will take public comments and enact an ordinance. But before that vote, the town took action that could have an immediate impact: They voted unanimously to deny a request to survey on publicly-owned land.
These actions send a clear message: Seismic surveying is the first step towards fracking, and we will take the steps necessary to protect our communities.
Take Action: Protect Monroeville from Seismic Testing