Shareholders Shawn N. Gallagher, Brian H. Simmons and associate Megan E. Smith obtained a seismic victory for Seitel Data, Ltd. (Seitel) in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, reported an article in the Beaver County Times and the Observer-reporter.com.

In this matter, Seitel had contracted with an oil and gas operator to conduct a seismic survey over a 157.84 square mile area in Allegheny and Beaver Counties. The data collected is necessary for efficient oil and gas operations with the least amount of impact. Simplified, seismic operations typically involve the use of explosives on private property and vibroseis trucks on roads that sends a series of vibrating waves thousands of feet into the earth.
After Seitel began the state permitting process, a number of municipalities, including Hopewell and Potter Townships in Beaver County, adopted local ordinances for the specific purpose of regulating seismic activities and preventing Seitel’s operations.

Instead of seeking relief in the Beaver County Court of Common Pleas, Seitel opted to file a Petition for Review in the Commonwealth Court’s original jurisdiction pursuant to Section 3306 of Act 13 notwithstanding the pending Supreme Court appeal of the Commonwealth Court’s earlier en banc decision finding that most of Chapter 33 of Act 13 (local regulation of oil and gas operations) was unconstitutional.

“We didn't want to do this," Gallagher told the Beaver County Times. “We tried everything to address everybody's concerns, but we were left in a position that we had no choice. Even in light of these decisions, the court's order, we still want to have a positive relationship with these municipalities."

This matter involved only uncharted territory. The biggest hurdle Seitel faced was whether or not the court would accept jurisdiction. The judge assigned to the case was the same judge who ruled in the Act 13 litigation that Section 3305 was implicitly enjoined as unconstitutional (Section 3306 mirrors the language/intent of 3305). At the hearing, the judge informed Seitel that his assignment was no mistake.

Following an August 28 hearing, the court issued an opinion and order on September 3, 2013, enjoining the ordinances and allowing Seitel to conduct all of its operations. The decision was also a huge victory for the industry as a whole given the Commonwealth Court assumed original jurisdiction under Section 3306 regardless of the Supreme Court’s ultimate decision.

Read the full article – “Court Order Granted in Favor of Seismic Testing Company” (Beaver County Times, September 14, 2013) Subscription required.