Padilla, Feinstein Announce Bills to Protect Americans from Increasingly Catastrophic Wildfires, Hazardous Wildfire Smoke

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As multiple fires burn across California and parts of the state continue to face hazardous and unhealthy air quality due to wildfire smoke, U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein (both D-Calif.) joined Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden (both D-Oregon) to announce the Wildfire-Resilient Communities Act and Smoke-Ready Communities Act, aimed at battling wildfires, protecting workers, and helping combat the effects of wildfire smoke.

The bills follow a summer of severe drought and a series of fires, including the Dixie Fire—which is now the largest single fire in California’s history burning over 979 square miles. Wildfire smoke has become an increasingly frequent hazard. Given these threats, the bills are designed to better equip communities to put out catastrophic wildfires, and help address the public health and economic impacts of wildfire smoke.

“Californians continue to face more frequent, devastating wildfires that spread heavy, dangerous smoke throughout the state, resulting in an air quality crisis across the country,” said Senator Padilla. “We must do everything we can to ensure our communities are safe from wildfire smoke and better equip communities to protect themselves against wildfires. These critical bills will better combat smoke-related disasters, while working to combat major wildfires that threaten homes and communities.”

“Smoke from Western wildfires pose a direct threat to public health. Smoke can travel hundreds, even thousands of miles on air currents, endangering anyone who breathes toxins in the smoke. This package of bills will help protect public health by investing in wildfire smoke research, wildfire mitigation projects and additional infrastructure to protect and improve air-quality in at-risk communities,” said Senator Feinstein.

The Wildfire-Resilient Communities Act would reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, while creating economic opportunities in communities that rely on forests, by:

  • Supporting Wildfire Reduction Projects: A $30 billion fund would be used to provide stability and allow the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and other land management agencies to increase the pace and scale of catastrophic wildfire reduction projects.
  • Working with Local Communities: $1 billion would be authorized to empower federal agencies to work with local communities to plan and prepare for wildfires.
  • Reauthorizing Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Projects: This legislation would permanently reauthorize the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program, allowing more projects to receive funding in a given fiscal year.
  • Creating a County Stewardship Fund: This legislation would create a County Stewardship Fund that would provide payments to counties equal to 25 percent of stewardship contract receipts on federal land within their counties.

The Smoke-Ready Communities Act would make grants to states to make necessary air quality upgrades more accessible by providing federal funding to help local communities invest in protecting public health from wildfire smoke. The legislation would:

  • Support efforts by state and local government to communicate public health information regarding wildfire smoke.
  • Provide funding to make infrastructure upgrades to public buildings to filter out wildfire smoke.
  • Provide funding to purchase and store personal protective equipment.
  • Provide funding to private entities with financial need to acquire protective gear and carry out other measures to mitigate smoke.

In July, Padilla joined Senators Feinstein, Merkley, and Ron Wyden to introduce the Smoke Planning and Research Act and Wildfire Smoke Emergency Declaration Act. The bills are aimed at ensuring California has the federal resources it needs to protect communities impacted by wildfire smoke. The Wildfire Smoke Emergency Declaration Act would allow the president to declare a “smoke emergency” when wildfire smoke creates hazardous air quality conditions. The Smoke Planning and Research Act would provide federal funding to help communities research, develop, and implement plans to help mitigate smoke.

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