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House Panel Advances Bill to Codify Protections for Use of Fire Retardant against Wildfire

The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee favorably reported H.R. 1586 (LaMafla), the Forest Protection and Wildland Firefighter Safety Act, on November 15.

NSDC sent to Committee leadership a letter with 75 co-signing special districts, cities, and counties supporting the legislation and Congressman Doug LaMalfa’s, R-Calif., amendment in the nature of a substitute (ANS). Congresswoman Val Hoyle, D-Ore., cosponsored the ANS.

The legislation codifies a Federal Facilities Compliance Agreement reached between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency in February 2023 for the ariel application of approved fire retardants against wildfire. The bill prevents courts from enjoining agencies’ use of fire retardants as the USDA seeks a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit in compliance with the Clean Water Act, and it provides protections for application of approved retardants in the event a permit is ultimately rejected. “Approved” fire retardants are defined as those that the USDA has evaluated, qualified, and approved, and appears on the Forest Service Qualified Products List. If approved, the policy would sunset in five years.

H.R. 1586 is a response to a Montana federal judge’s May 2023 ruling that the U.S. Forest Service violates the Clean Water Act when applying fire retardant without an NPDES permit. The judge stopped short of ordering the Forest Service to halt retardant applications against wildfire but requires USDA to pursue the NPDES permit and periodically report to the court on its progress.

Watch the Committee’s consideration of H.R. 1586 here. NSDC holds an elevated priority position on H.R. 1586 and co-signed a March 22 support letter to LaMalfa with the International Association of Fire Chiefs. 

NSDC invites special districts wishing to sign on to further support coalition efforts to complete this brief Microsoft Form. Contact Cole Arreola-Karr, NSDC Federal Advocacy Director, for more information.

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