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Schrader Bill to Prevent Forest Fires, Reduce Blackouts Passes the House

Congressman Kurt Schrader (OR-5)’s bill to improve the safety and reliability of the electric grid on our federal lands, the Electric Reliability and Forest Protection Act, passed through the House with overwhelming bipartisan support today, 300-118.

“Our bill ensures a safe and secure electric grid for our homes and communities, curbing the potential for blackouts or forest fires,” said Rep. Schrader. “Utility companies will now have a streamlined and consistent process for being able to fulfill their mandated responsibility to keep our communities safe, removing hazardous trees and vegetation before they create costly and deadly damage. Creating this streamlined process will save everyone money, and frankly a lot of heartache. Our bill is a great example of the bipartisan work this Congress can achieve for our neighbors at home when we put common sense ahead of politics and work together.”

Under current law, even where trees, plants and other vegetation are already in contact with electric transmission lines, it can take months for Forest Service to approve the remove of the hazardous vegetation from the transmission lines rights of way. This creates a dangerous environment, significantly increasing the likelihood of blackouts and forest fires.

The Electric Reliability and Forest Protection Act will provide utility companies, whose mandated responsibility it is to keep transmission lines safe and secure, with the ability to rapidly remove hazardous vegetation by receiving pre-approval from the Forest Service. Additionally under the bill, if a utility requests approval to remove vegetation and is denied, responsibility for any firefighting costs that are incurred should failure to remove the tree result in a forest fire remains with the Forest Service, rather than with the utility company.

Rep. Schrader introduced the bill in early April with Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), and the bill passed out of the Committee on Natural Resources, also with bipartisan support, at the end of April.