(submitted by Gem
County Concerned Citizens)
SEISMIC TESTING: ISSUES FOR LANDOWNERS
It's important that landowners are
- Seismic testing may carry physical risks (shaking of existing
structures, wells, tile drain fields, shallow tree roots, etc.) as
well as entail intrusion and possible damage to terrain utilized.
- An agreement to allow seismic testing (or mineral/gas extraction)
may make it difficult to sell/refinance or insure a property.
"Surprises in Store for Seismic Testing Permit Signers?"]
Landowners who are unsure whether seismic or other property lease
agreements will affect their mortgage or insurance coverage should
consult with their bankers/agents. (Particularly if gas/oil well
drilling is to take place on the property, it would be important to
learn whether any coverage is included in the insurance policy to
ensure protection of their drinking water if contamination should
If you do contemplate signing a seismic testing permit, the following
are factors that are worthy of consideration beforehand.
What should a landowner do when asked to sign a seismic
Here are some import steps a landowner
should take upon getting a request to permit seismic testing...
1. Obtain the proposed permit documents
from the contractor.
2. Ask for any agreements between the testing contractor and
your lessee, and any existing agreements or documents that
the testing contractor claims give it any rights to conduct testing on
3. Require detailed written plans, timelines, and
details of means and methods proposed for testing on your property
before entering any agreement. Some form permits give broad
discretion to the testing company as to what activities they may
4. Ask for copies of insurance declarations that
would protect the landownerís property and interests.
5. Be sure to obtain competent legal counsel before
signing any testing access permission.
6. Do NOT sign an agreement that gives the gas company an
option to lease your mineral rights.
These are lease agreements and, as with other two-party legal
agreements, they are open to negotiation. You may
offer a different version or attach a list of conditions to the form
For a suggested seismic testing agreement template prepared by a law
Other points to consider:
1. Landowners generally
get paid little for the seismic testing companies to come on-site and
do their testing.
2. Landowners do not get copies of the data.
3. The data is VERY valuable.
4. The seismic testing companies may be hired by a
particular gas company or they may do the work "on spec" and sell the
data to any or all interested bidders.
5. There is significant risk to landowners who permit
seismic testing activity before they are leased. If the seismic data
is unfavorable, the gas company may not offer a lease. Ordinarily the
gas company would have to lease, and pay a larger per-acre bonus,
before they would have sufficient right to enter the property and gain
access to the seismic data.
In sum: you donít know whatís down there. They donít either Ė yet.
They have to pay for the right to explore. If they can get seismic
data for a few dollars an acre, they may save thousands of dollars per
acre that they may have otherwise paid for the right to explore your
property set forth in a lease.
Also, many landowners would not be happy to see the helicopters,
trucks and ATVís show up on their property during certain times of the
year (e.g. on the first day of deer season). Be sure to talk to your
lawyer about including any special protections or provisions you may
Some of the items that need to be considered when doing
seismic testing would include the following:
- What is your property being used for? If there are farming,
livestock or other operations going on, these must be protected. If
the property is leased, the tenantís rights need to be considered
- Are there buildings and/or water sources on your property? If so,
setbacks will need to be established and provisions made for the
protection of the buildings and water sources.
- Will the seismic testing be done through the use of shot holes or
thumper trucks? The type of seismic testing and the location needs
to be established.
- Where is the ingress and egress to and from your property going to
be? This needs to be specified.
- When will seismic testing occur? A date and time need to be
established. An expiration date for the seismic testing should be
specified. You should also receive advance notice of the testing.
- When the seismic testing is done, what repair or remediation of your
property will need to be done? The property should be returned to
the condition it was in prior to the seismic testing.
- What happens if damage or injury occurs as a result of the seismic
testing? The seismic testing company should be insured and should
indemnify you against all loss or liability. There should be an
indemnification clause in your agreement with the seismic testing
- What will you be paid for allowing permission to do seismic testing
on your property? Usually the amount is miniscule; i.e., $10 to $25
per acre, but it may be possible to receive more.
The bottom line is that if you are approached by a seismic testing
company asking for permission to do seismic testing on your property,
you should contact an attorney to review and amend the seismic testing
companyís agreement, so that your rights are protected.
Possibilities for seismic testing agreement language (based
on successfully negotiated leases):
General Considerations for Every Surface Property Owner ("Grantor"):
1. Limit time to 18 months, after which permit
2. Operator should agree to indemnify and hold
Grantor harmless from any personal injury or property damage that may
result from Operatorsí operations.
3. Surveyors shall meet with grantor(s) 48 hours to
one week prior to surveying to locate springs, wells and other areas
where safe distances must be established.
4. Use only grantor-designated access points.
5. Grantor to be notified prior to initial entry and
6. If payment is offered, payment shall be made
"prior to entry", which includes work by surveyors.
7. Property to be left in same or better condition.
8. Grantor can specify areas where no motorized
vehicles are allowed.
9. No motorized vehicles permitted on ponds/ lakes/
10. No fences to be cut without prior approval.
11. Any oil spills or other hazard damage are to be
promptly reported to surface owner and repaired according to existing
state & federal environmental laws.
12. Any damages to property shall be repaired and/or
grantor will be paid within 15 days of such damage.
13. Rutting to roads or land shall be promptly
repaired back to normal conditions, excessive rutting (greater than 3"
tracks) must be repaired to grantorís satisfaction.
14. Vehicles not to exceed 5 miles per hour.
15. Smaller tracts, less than 3 acres, grantor may
limit access to walk only cable only.
16. No work dusk to dawn.
17. Where clearing is necessary, no trees greater
than 3" diameter breast high (DBH) will be cut or damaged. Any damage
will be valued by a professional forester and paid accordingly.
18. Designate areas not to be traversed with
equipment (ex. deer pens, food plots, wetlands, etc.).
19. Special care must be taken in crossing creeks to
not alter flow or create erosion. No large motorized vehicles shall
cross creeks without adequate Erosion and Sedimentation controls.
20. Grantor is not precluded from allowing other
seismic activities on his property.
21. No equipment to be parked on grantors property
22. All flagging, stakes and other debris will be
promptly removed upon completion of seismic work.
23. Grantor will be supplied with map of location of
all source points (vibe & explosive charges) and receiver cable lines
prior to execution of seismic agreement.
24. Seismic shot holes or other seismic activity will
not be permitted within 500 feet of any water well or spring used for
domestic or farm water supplies.
25. Terraces, unless used for agricultural purposes,
and other raised earth/rock barriers will not be crossed with
motorized vehicular equipment.
26. Grantor will be contacted when activities are
27. Perimeter cutting where grantorís property
adjoins a route of travel (township roads, railroad right-of-way, cart
ways Ė both pedestrian and vehicular) should be eliminated in order to
limit unwanted ATV and pedestrian access to the property.
28. Backfilling of shot holes Ė upon detonation of
explosives and collection of seismic data, shot holes are to be
rendered to a condition where there is no pathway present for surface
or subsurface contaminants to travel to and between water-bearing
zones. To prevent runoff or other contaminants from entering the shot
hole, recommend use of proper abandonment procedures specified for a
water well in an unconsolidated
Special Agricultural Considerations:
29. Crop damages shall be paid using highest yield
paid in last 3 years on property and if not available, then Farm
Service Agency (FSA) county average for the last 3 years will be the
basis for determining payment for crop damage, payable to Grantor.
30. Seismic activity will leave gates as found. If
open leave open. If closed leave closed. If locked leave locked.
31. A roundup, catch, sort and haul fee will be the
responsibility of the seismic company for any animals escaping due to
32. Seismic company must provide notification, 48
hours in advance of any phase of seismic work, to the property owner
to ensure grantor or grantorís tenant has sufficient time to implement
cautionary measures for the protection and safety of cattle, horses or
33. Property owners of grazing livestock shall be
give 48-hour advance notification, to permit removal of livestock from
any pasture where testing is to occur. Livestock should be moved as
far away as possible especially lactating dairy cattle and pregnant
34. Water resources that may feed watering troughs or
similar devises may be impacted by seismic testing resulting in
increased sediment or new or expanded sink holes which may impact
back to the natural gas links page