Matzie proposal would increase setback requirements for drilling near

HARRISBURG, Aug. 12 – State Rep. Rob Matzie, D-Beaver/Allegheny, announced today that he intends to introduce legislation that would strengthen protections surrounding unconventional gas wells and their proximity to dams and reservoirs.    

Matzie’s proposal would prohibit the drilling of unconventional gas wells within 4,000 feet of any existing dam or reservoir, such as the Ambridge Reservoir. Additionally, Matzie said his bill would prohibit the drilling of unconventional gas wells within 2,000 horizontal-feet of any existing water well, surface water intake or water supply extraction point used by a water purveyor without the written consent of the water purveyor. 

“I remain a supporter of the responsible extraction of our natural resources and I applaud the economic lifeblood that it has pumped into our region over the past few years,” Matzie said. “But as new information becomes available, we have to make sure that the proper protections are in place so no unintended harm comes to our citizens or our communities.”

A recent multiyear engineering study completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found that the structural integrity of the Joe Pool Dam, located in Texas, was at risk of being compromised by nearby drilling, hydraulic fracturing, the injection of fluids and the extraction of natural gas.

As a result of that study, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined that the 20-year-old standard of a 3,000-foot exclusion zone surrounding the dam is not sufficient and should be increased to 4,000 feet to ensure the safety of the dam, the lake, and the health and safety of local residents. Matzie said his proposal would take that recommendation and codify it into Pennsylvania law. 

“When it comes to the safety of our water and our infrastructure, we only act with an abundance of caution because the costs of getting it wrong, both financially and otherwise, are too great to bear,” Matzie said. “I want the natural gas industry to continue to be successful in Pennsylvania. My goal, based on the expert analysis of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is to allow these companies to continue their operations while better protecting our water and waterways. If longer setbacks are good enough for Texas, they should be good enough for Pennsylvania.”