Ion Geophysical sues Westmoreland County town in seismic mapping case

In a variation on a theme begun in Beaver County, a seismic company is suing a township in Westmoreland County for not letting the firm thump its ground.

Ion Geophysical Corp. is asking a federal judge to enjoin Hempfield from interfering with its project to create a 3D map of the gas that lies beneath by placing sensors across the survey area and using vibroseis trucks to send pulses underground.

Ion alleges in the complaint that Hempfield has refused to negotiate with the company for allowing these trucks to use its roads. The township doesn't have an ordinance to regulate seismic activity, according to the suit. It is unclear whether any existing township ordinances regarding its roadways would apply.

In lieu of that, Ion says it tried to get the township to sign a contract that would set conditions for its operations, but the township refused.

"It is the Township’s position that Township roads can only be used for public purposes and seismic testing is not a public purpose," Ion's complaint states.

So the company asked a federal judge to forbid Hempfield from interfering with Ion's survey and exempt the company for one year from any ordinance regulating seismic activity in Hempfield, should the township decide to pass one.

Hempfield's attorney, Leslie Mlakar, declined to comment on the complaint.

The survey is part of Ion's GreensburgSCAN project. According to a permit Ion obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, it encompasses: North Huntingdon, East Huntingdon, South Huntingdon, Sewickley, Hempfield, and Rostraver townships as well as  Madison, Youngwood, New Stanton, Hunker, Suttersville, West Newton and Smithton boroughs in Westmoreland County.

The survey also includes Perry Township in Fayette County and, in Allegheny County, South Versailles and Elizabeth townships. 

Another seismic survey is in the works for parts of Allegheny County.

Geokinetics, another Texas-based firm, has been issued a DEP permit for operations in South Park, Elizabeth, Forward, South Versailles, White Oak, Jefferson Hills, Glassport, Lincoln and Versailles boroughs as well as Clairton. The so-called Bunola 3D project also includes Rostraver, Sewickley and North Huntingdon townships in Westmoreland County.

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