– During a town hall meeting on Wednesday in Sewickley, Allegheny County, state Reps. Valerie Gaydos (R-Allegheny) and Emily Kinkead (D-Allegheny) discussed their legislation to create a new insurance program for homeowners living in landslide-prone areas, as well as assistance to local governments that wish to mitigate the risk of landslides within their communities.
“Landslides are a major issue. Helping citizens and communities mitigate or recover from major catastrophic events, such as those caused by landslides is precisely where government assistance should be applied” said Gaydos. “Because of western Pennsylvania’s geography, many homes and roads have been damaged severely because of landslides, mudslides or other types of earth movement. The expense can be overwhelming when damage from landslides is not covered under normal homeowner’s insurance.”
“We need to govern!” said Kinkead. “We were elected to help the people we represent, and landslides are one the biggest things that I heard about, even before I took the oath of office. Sixty years ago, the state recognized that people needed insurance for land movement that damaged their property through no fault of their own and created mine subsidence insurance. It is now time to embrace landslide insurance for exactly the same reason.”
House Bill 589
would add coverage of landslides, slope movement and sinkholes to an existing program in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) that currently only covers mine subsidence assistance and insurance.
Testifiers discussed the needs and challenges of this legislation; however, all agreed that something must be done to help people deal with the effects that landslides can cause to homeowners.
Steve Pilarski, deputy county manager for Allegheny County, said “This has been an ongoing concern to homeowners in Allegheny County. Funding is a big problem. The county can’t do this alone. It is imperative that local, county, state and federal officials work together in order to protect the people. I compliment Reps. Gaydos and Kinkead for their hard work.”
Barbara Carrier, mayor of Glen Osborne Borough, said “We may experience more landslides due to increased rainfall. Our communities need to work together on a comprehensive plan, which includes zoning ordinances to restrict development in landslide-prone areas.”
Previous versions of this legislation have been discussed for years; however, Gaydos and Kinkead have worked together to update and streamline the proposed program and have reintroduced it as a bipartisan bill.
The lack of landslide protection leaves many Pennsylvanians exposed to the financial fallout and creates a large burden to communities in a multitude of ways. Western Pennsylvania is susceptible to landslides because of two natural geological characteristics:
The bedrock land composition, consisting mainly of incompetent mud rocks, such as silty shales and clay stones that weather easily.
The regional topography consisting of steep slopes.
In addition, changing weather patterns that have resulted in more frequent heavy rainfall and flooding have caused significant geologic hazards across the state. It is a risk to nearly all Pennsylvanians who may not have the ability to financially prepare.
The lawmakers added this measure would have far-reaching impacts in safeguarding residents against nature’s often unpredictable forces.
Gaydos and Kinkead will hold another town hall meeting about landslide insurance on Thursday, Oct. 5, from 5-7 p.m., at the Activities Building, Riverview Park, 142 Riverview Ave
., Pittsburgh. For more information, call 412-321-5523.
Representative Valerie Gaydos
44th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Rick Leiner
RepGaydos.com / Facebook.com/RepGaydos