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house Bill H.R. 1873

Should Electric Utilities be Allowed to Remove Hazardous Trees Near Powerlines on Federal Land to Prevent Fires?

Argument in favor

This bipartisan bill would decrease the risk of blackouts, prevent forest fires, and lower costs for electrical utilities and the Forest Service by letting utilities more efficiently remove hazardous trees.

Chris's Opinion
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06/21/2017
I'd like to see this amended with something about re-planting trees that are removed. Maybe something like for every 2 trees removed, a new one must be planted in another location
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Akilah's Opinion
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06/21/2017
Only what is necessary should be removed and they should have to report and replace the number or trees or find a better place to put the lines.
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Ray's Opinion
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06/21/2017
Common sense, so long as liability is shifted to the utility responsible for maintaining the right of way. No free rides!
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Argument opposed

This bill doesn’t do enough to solve the problem of coordination between electrical utilities and federal land management agencies, shifts responsibility for wildfires from utilities to taxpayers.

Clint's Opinion
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06/21/2017
Congress should not be building loopholes for utility companies to log out public lands. If clearing must be done to install and maintain utilities, it must be proposed to and agreed upon by the EPA, Forestry Service, or National Park Service if applicable, during the contract process.
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Kodiwodi's Opinion
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06/21/2017
I have to say there is a knee jerk reaction to yell save the trees here, however, as I live in a state with year round forest fires there are two important things people forget. Forest or wildfires generally are caused by people acting recklessly or lighting strikes in dry windy conditions. Seldom if ever is one cause by utilities. The other thing is fire is not a bad thing for a forest unless it's to the point of sterilization of the soil. Many forests are experiencing beetle kill. A fire takes out the standing deadwood and allows for new growth. While this bill has good intentions, I see no oversight and it appears to be shifting the cost away from the utilities where it belongs. There is no incentive to bury these lines for both aesthetic and safety purposes. Nice idea but it doesn't go far enough. Much praise to our Wildland Firefighters.
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Chimmy's Opinion
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06/21/2017
This seems like a way for private companies to clear cut forests in the name of safety and fire control. The bill does not specify what science has shown as a safe distance nor does it provide oversight mechanism for company's, because we all know they want to make profit regardless of the impact to the environment, loss of habitat, etc.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
  • The house Passed June 21st, 2017
    Roll Call Vote 300 Yea / 118 Nay
      house Committees
      Committee on Agriculture
      Conservation and Forestry
      National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands
      Water, Oceans, and Wildlife
      Committee on Natural Resources
    IntroducedApril 4th, 2017

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What is House Bill H.R. 1873?

This bill would require that all existing and future Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service rights-of-way agreements with electric utilities include plans for controlling vegetation that could interfere with transmission and cause forest fires. Such plans would enable the operator of a facility to keep it in good working order while complying with federal, state, and local requirements without having to get case-by-case or annual approvals for vegetation management activities.

Plans would be developed in consultation with the holder of the right-of-way, and facility owners would have the option of submitting a plan to federal agencies which are to be tasked with developing a process for reviewing and approving the plans. The Depts. of Agriculture (USDA) and Interior, which oversee the BLM and Forest Service, would apply its categorical exclusion process to the vegetation maintenance plans which excludes actions that have no effect on the human environment from requirements to conduct an environmental impact statement.

If vegetation on federal lands within, or hazard trees on federal lands adjacent to, an electrical transmission or distribution right-of-way granted by Interior or USDA has contacted or is imminent danger of contacting transmission or distribution lines the owner:

  • May prune or remove the vegetation or hazard tree to avoid disruption of electric service and risk of fire;

  • Would notify the local agent of the relevant agency within 24 hours of the removal.

An owner or operator of a transmission or distribution facility wouldn’t be held liable for wildfire damages, loss, or injury, including the cost of fire suppression if Interior or USDA fail to allow it to:

  • Operate with an approved vegetation management, facility inspection, operation, and maintenance plan based on relevant electric system reliability and fire safety standards;

  • Perform vegetation management activities in response to a hazard tree.

Owners or operators wouldn’t have to submit a vegetation management, facility inspection, operation, and maintenance plan if one has already been approved by Interior or USDA before this bill’s enactment.

Impact

Consumers of electricity and those affected by would-be forest fires; utility companies; the BLM and the Forest Service.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 1873

$0.00
The CBO estimates that enacting this bill would have a negligible impact on the federal budget.

More Information

In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) introduced this bill to make it easier for utility companies to remove hazardous trees and other vegetation near transmission lines to reduce the risk of wildfires:

“This bipartisan legislation is beneficial for everyone involved, decreasing the risk of blackouts, lowering costs for utilities and the Forest Service, and preventing forest fires. A single tree falling on a transmission line can cause blackouts for thousands of homes and spark a fire that devastates a National Forest, but existing red tape can prevent removal of dangerous trees for months. Under this legislation, rural electric co-ops, utilities, and municipal power providers will be able to proactively remove hazardous trees before they become problems, not after they’ve caused a fire.”

Lead cosponsor Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) concurred, adding:

“Properly maintained rights-of-way is essential for public safety and enhancing the reliability of our electrical grid. The LaMalfa-Schrader bill is a no-brainer and this should not be controversial. Preventing forest fires and maintaining a reliable electrical grid should be a priority for everybody. Our utilities need a streamlined and consistent process for being able to get out on the ground and remove hazardous vegetation before it can cause a wildfire. This is exactly what our bill does.”

Some Democratic members of the House Natural Resources Committee offered their dissent to this legislation in the bill’s committee report, arguing it wouldn’t improve coordination between utility companies and federal land management agencies:

“[This bill] would do little to solve the problem of poor coordination because instead of making up-front planning for ROW maintenance a requirement for utilities, H.R. 1873 makes such planning optional, just as it is now. Further, the bill allows states and localities to dictate how U.S. public lands are managed and shifts liability for wildfire damage from utility companies to the taxpayers.”

This legislation passed the House Natural Resources Committee on a 24-14 vote, and has the support of 20 bipartisan cosponsors — including 14 Republicans and six Democrats.

 

Media:

Summary by Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: Coconino National Forest via Flickr / Creative Commons)

AKA

Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act

Official Title

To amend the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 to enhance the reliability of the electricity grid and reduce the threat of wildfires to and from electric transmission and distribution facilities on Federal lands by facilitating vegetation management on such lands.

    I'd like to see this amended with something about re-planting trees that are removed. Maybe something like for every 2 trees removed, a new one must be planted in another location
    Like (276)
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    Congress should not be building loopholes for utility companies to log out public lands. If clearing must be done to install and maintain utilities, it must be proposed to and agreed upon by the EPA, Forestry Service, or National Park Service if applicable, during the contract process.
    Like (128)
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    There needs to be accountability on replacing the removed trees and a reg on how much distance does the removal code cover. Big corporations unfortunately do not have the thoughts, needs or awareness to care about human or environmental needs...their jobs are beholden to shareholders and their profitability.
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    Only what is necessary should be removed and they should have to report and replace the number or trees or find a better place to put the lines.
    Like (85)
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    I have to say there is a knee jerk reaction to yell save the trees here, however, as I live in a state with year round forest fires there are two important things people forget. Forest or wildfires generally are caused by people acting recklessly or lighting strikes in dry windy conditions. Seldom if ever is one cause by utilities. The other thing is fire is not a bad thing for a forest unless it's to the point of sterilization of the soil. Many forests are experiencing beetle kill. A fire takes out the standing deadwood and allows for new growth. While this bill has good intentions, I see no oversight and it appears to be shifting the cost away from the utilities where it belongs. There is no incentive to bury these lines for both aesthetic and safety purposes. Nice idea but it doesn't go far enough. Much praise to our Wildland Firefighters.
    Like (43)
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    Share
    Common sense, so long as liability is shifted to the utility responsible for maintaining the right of way. No free rides!
    Like (30)
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    This seems like a way for private companies to clear cut forests in the name of safety and fire control. The bill does not specify what science has shown as a safe distance nor does it provide oversight mechanism for company's, because we all know they want to make profit regardless of the impact to the environment, loss of habitat, etc.
    Like (24)
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    If utility companies need vegetation cut back on public lands they should contact the forestry service or whomever is responsible for maintaining those public lands. Don't give utility companies freedom to do what they want to our natural resources. They will always do whatever is cheapest and in their shareholders or corporate interest. Protect the parks and public lands because nobody else will.
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    NO, NO, NO !!!!! THE POWER LINES ALREADY HAVE A SEVERAL HUNDRED YARD CLEARANCE ON ALL SIDES OF ITS RIGHT OF WAY !!!! THIS IS A BILL TO CLEAR CUT FOR PROFIT MORE OF WE THE PEOPLES PRIVATE AND PUBLIC LANDS BY CORPORATIONS !!!! GET RID OF IT !!! PASS INSTEAD, A BILL THAT INVOLUNTARILY FINES ALL INDIVIDUALS AND CORPORATIONS PRIVATE AND PUBLIC 40% OF THEIR YEARLY CORPORATE OR PUBLIC EARNINGS FOR VIOLATING EXISTING LAWS PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT WITH A THREE STRIKES YOUR OUT OF BUSINESS AND INCARCERATED REQUIREMENT ON ALL JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS !!!!!
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    This bill provides no oversight for a private company operating on public land.
    Like (9)
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    As a certified arborist I feel it is critical to remove hazard trees that interfere with power lines. Not only do they pose a fire risk, but any tree touching a hot wire drains power from the grid. Every limb touching a wire could be equated to someone leaving their lights on or worse. Replacing them only makes sense if the new trees are planted well away from existing utilities.
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    I am a retired construction engineer and senior manager. Not only should this be OK it should be mandated that there be no trees or branches within a twenty foot zone of any power lines that carry voltages greater than 1,500 volts. This is pure common sense safety.
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    Why is this an issue. This should be a no brainer. Pass this then get on with the Trump agenda.
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    Common sense.
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    Few, if any, forest fires have ever been caused by electrical lines. Dry conditions, ecosystems that have evolved to burn as a seed dispersal mechanism, and poorly funded fire prevention programs in these areas pose a MUCH greater risk than allowing utilities to log trees they seem to be a problem. An EIS should be conducted to see if burying the lines would be possible Le, and if so, that investment would ultimately be cheaper for all parties.
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    You want everything to be safe. A few downed trees for safety is perfectly fine.
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    While I agree the electric lines need to be kept clear so our electric infrastructure is not interrupted, I believe we must insist for every tree removed another needs to be planted to ensure reforestation takes place.
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    No oversight for private companies to log usa lands
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    Absolutely! I would also add that new trees be planted to replace those cut down. This is very important to the safety of people and workers living or working close to the power line.
    Like (5)
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    If this law passes this is basically like a dearth penalty for the earth despite the earth doing nothing. CUTTING DOWN TREES SHOULD BE ILLEGAL. A Supreme Court justice appointed by the MOST POPULAR president FDR said "Trees deserve personhood in court". Think about that.
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