Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today released the following statement ahead of a Wednesday hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to consider the Emergency Wildfire and Public Safety Act.
This bipartisan bill, introduced by Feinstein and Steve Daines (R-Mont.), would help protect communities from catastrophic wildfires by implementing wildfire mitigation projects, sustaining healthier forests that are more resilient to climate change and providing important energy and retrofitting assistance to businesses and residences to mitigate future risks from wildfire.
“I hope this hearing puts a spotlight on the devastating situation across much of the West,” said Feinstein. “Ten percent of Oregon’s population is under evacuation orders. More than half a million acres have burned in Washington state. In California, an area the size of Connecticut has burned this year.
“Never in my 28 years in the Senate have I ever seen such a widespread and devastating fire season. Climate change is driving the conditions that create these fires and shows no signs of abating. But we can’t just do nothing to protect or constituents from wildfires now while we develop our approach to combatting climate change over the next several decades. Our immediate approach to wildfires must change if we hope to minimize the damage and destruction.
“I believe this bill is a necessary step in adapting to our new reality. I thank my colleagues on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee for holding a hearing to consider the bill and hope it moves through the Senate quickly.”
Following are the key provisions of the Emergency Wildfire and Public Safety Act:
- Provide new authority for the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to work collaboratively with state partners in the West to implement wildfire mitigation projects. Projects are restricted to areas most in need of restorative forest management.
- Allow disaster mitigation and preparedness funding to be used to reduce the wildfire risk posed by utility lines and expedite permitting for the installation of wildfire detection equipment (such as sensors, cameras, and other relevant equipment) and expand the use of satellite data to assist wildfire response.
- Create a program to incentivize the collection of woody biomass and help expand processing facilities to make biomass more economically viable.
- Create a forest workforce development program to train a new generation of workers to help address wildfire and forest health.
- Require the establishment of a fire center in the Western United States to train new firefighters and forestry professionals on the beneficial uses of prescribed fires, a far more cost-effective and natural method of stopping catastrophic fires than mechanical thinning or firefighting.
- Lift the current export ban on unprocessed timber from federal lands in the west for trees that are dead or dying, or if there is no demand in the United States. California currently has nearly 150 million dead and dying trees on thousands of acres that are at risk of wildfire.
- Expand the Energy Department’s weatherization program to allow for the retrofit of homes to make them more resilient to wildfire through the use of fire-resistant building materials and other methods.
- Establish a new grant program to assist critical facilities like hospitals and police stations become more energy efficient and better adapted to function during power shutoffs. The new program would also provide funding for the expanded use of distributed energy infrastructure, including microgrids.
The bipartisan Emergency Wildfire and Public Safety Act is supported by the following:
- Governor Gavin Newsom
- California Farm Bureau Federation
- Rural County Representatives of California
- Butte County
- Contra Costa County
- Fresno County
- Humboldt County
- Inyo County
- Lassen County
- City of Long Beach
- City of Los Angeles
- Los Angeles County
- Mendocino County
- Placer County
- San Bernardino County
- City of San Diego
- San Diego County
- Santa Barbara County Fire Department
- City of Thousand Oaks
- City of Torrance
- Tulare County
- Tuolumne County
- City of Ventura
- Ventura County
- Ventura County Fire Department
- Yuba County
- American Forest Resource Council
- Congressional Sportsmen Foundation
- Edison Electric Institute
- Liberty Utilities
- National Association of Conservation Districts
- National Association of State Foresters
- National Water Resources Association
- Northwest Public Power Association
- Sacramento Municipal Utility District,
- Sempra Energy’s California Utilities
- Southern California Edison
- Sequoia Riverlands Trust
- American Farm Bureau Federation
- Alaska Farm Bureau
- Arizona Farm Bureau Federation
- California Farm Bureau Federation
- Colorado Farm Bureau
- Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation
- Idaho Farm Bureau Federation
- Montana Farm Bureau Federation
- Nevada Farm Bureau
- New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau
- Oregon Farm Bureau
- Utah Farm Bureau Federation
- Washington Farm Bureau
- Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation
Additionally, the bill is supported by the following conservation organizations:
- American Woodcock Society
- Boone and Crockett Club
- Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation
- Mule Deer Foundation
- National Deer Alliance
- National Wild Turkey Federation
- Quality Deer Management Association
- Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
- Ruffed Grouse Society
- Wildlife Management Institute
- Wildlife Mississippi
- Wild Sheep Foundation