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Pennsylvania Legislature Expected to see Buffer Zone Legislation

Natural gas wells are not hard to find in Pennsylvania. Though they may be tucked off of the beaten path, one would be hard pressed to not personally know, or know someone who knows where a natural gas well pad is located. The Shale Gas Knowledge Hub even has an interactive tool that shows well locations across the state that is free for anyone to use.

There is also much debate about where exactly a well can be spudded, and given the nature of unconventional drilling, what the horizontal portion can drill under. Unconventional wells only take up a few acres on the surface, but the drill typically plunges over a mile into the earth, and then several miles horizontally in order to access the shale formations.

There is a recent concern with unconventional wells that drill beneath dams, and if there should be more significant buffer zones to protect dams from potential damage or catastrophe. The threat is with surface subsidence, a collapse of the ground on the surface of the earth, such as a sinkhole, as a result of fracking.

Legislation has been proposed to impose a 4,000-foot buffer zone around all dams in the state but failed to gain traction. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, state Representative Rob Matzie, D-Beaver, who introduced the original legislation, plans on bringing the bill back to the legislature in the near future. The 4,000-foot number comes from legislation in Texas that requires such a buffer around dams. However, those opposed to or questioning the bill argue that Texas and Pennsylvania are geographically and geologically different, and so Texas’ policy should not be seen as a one-size-fits-all.

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