Matzie introduces bills to increase protections for infrastructure, homeowners

AMBRIDGE, Sept. 22 – In an effort to ensure the health and safety of Pennsylvania residents and their communities, state Rep. Rob Matzie, D-Beaver/Allegheny, introduced two bills today that would strengthen protections for basic infrastructure and homeowners. 

House Bill 2366 would prohibit the drilling of unconventional gas wells within 4,000 feet of any existing dam or reservoir, such as the Ambridge Reservoir. Additionally, the 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.

As a result of a study on the structural integrity of Texas’ Joe Pool Dam, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined that the 20-year-old standard of a 3,000-foot exclusion zone surrounding the dam isn't 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 legislation would take that recommendation and codify it into Pennsylvania law.

"The safety of our water and our infrastructure is of the utmost importance. I am grateful for the expert analysis of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as it will help us ensure that the proper protections are in place so no unintended harm comes to our citizens or our communities," Matzie said. "If longer setbacks are good enough for Texas, they should be good enough for Pennsylvania."

Matzie’s second bill, H.B. 2365, would require insurers to cover both naturally occurring earthquakes and those caused by human activity, including methods used to find natural gas deposits.

"Several structures in my district were damaged last year by seismic testing, and homeowners were initially informed that their claims would not be covered despite having earthquake riders as part of their homeowners’ insurance," Matzie said. "While I was eventually able to rectify the situation by working with the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance, a legislative fix is needed to assure homeowners that their insurance policies will be there for their family should they ever need them. No matter the cause, earthquake insurance should cover damage from any and all seismic activity."