Week ending June 23, 2017
H.R.1873 – Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act
The bill reports states its purpose “HR 1873 amends 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.”
“This bill deals specifically with electricity ROWs on U.S. Forest Service (Forest Service) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. Forest Service lands include 3,000 authorized electric transmission and distribution facilities, accounting for nearly 18,000 miles of electric ROWs.\2\ BLM has over 71,613 miles of electricity transmission and distribution lines.”
“Electricity ROWs are usually in need of active vegetative management since they can be surrounded by living, dead or dying trees that can make contact with a power line if not properly maintained. Vegetative management is a critical tool for safeguarding electricity infrastructure and wildlife habitat on ROWs located on federal and other lands. The goals of vegetative management are to ensure electricity line reliability to prevent tree-related fires and keep the public and habitat safe.”
H.R. 1873 attempts to provide consistency by requiring the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture to allow electricity ROW holders on BLM and Forest Service lands the option of submitting utility vegetation management, facility inspection and operation and maintenance plans for such lands for approval, and to develop a coordinated process for review and approval for such plans.
H.R. 1873 ensures that a utility is not liable if the federal government failed to allow the utility to manage vegetation on or adjacent to the ROW.
(Full text of H.R. 1873 at congress.gov)
Sponsor: Rep. LaMalfa, Doug [R-CA-1] (Introduced 04/04/2017)
Status: Passed House /
VOTES and FLOOR ACTION
On Passage: On passage Passed by recorded vote: 300 – 118 (Roll no. 315).
An amendment, offered by Mr. Carbajal, numbered 1 printed in Part A of House Report 115-186 to ensure that owners and operators of electric transmission and distribution facilities submit management plans to the Secretary. On agreeing to the Carbajal amendment; Failed by recorded vote: 171 – 243 (Roll no. 314)
An amendment, offered by Ms. Sinema, numbered 2 printed in Part A of House Report 115-186 to ensure personnel of the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service involved in vegetation management decisions on transmission and distribution rights-of-way receive training on how unmanned technologies can be used to identify vegetation management needs, lower energy costs, and reduce the risk of wildfires. On agreeing to the Sinema amendment; Agreed to by voice vote
Motion to recommit:
Text of the motion:
COST AND IMPACT
Cost to the taxpayers: CBO estimates that implementing the bill would cost $12 million over the 2018-2022 period.
Pay-as-you-go requirements: . H.R. 1873 would affect direct spending by reducing the amount of damages the federal government would collect from private firms in the event of certain fires; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures apply. However, CBO estimates that any such effects would be negligible. Enacting the bill would not affect revenues.
Regulatory and Other Impact: H.R. 1873 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) and would impose no costs on state, local, or tribal governments.
Dynamic Scoring: CBO also estimates that enacting H.R. 1873 would not increase net direct spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2028.
Tax Complexity: Not applicable to this bill.
Earmark Certification: This bill does not contain any Congressional earmarks, limited tax benefits, or limited tariff benefits as defined under clause 9(e), 9(f), and 9(g) of rule XXI of the Rules of the House of Representatives.
Duplication of programs: Duplication of Existing Programs. This bill does not establish or reauthorize a program of the federal government known to be duplicative of another program.
Direct Rule-Making: Section 2 requires the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to either amend existing regulations or promulgate new ones to implement the bill within two years of the date of enactment of this bill.
Advisory Committee Statement: Data not available
Budget Authority: Data not available
Constitutional Authority: Assumed.
More Bill Information:
We expressed disappointment when Republicans refused to address our concerns with this bill and forced it through the Committee last Congress because we agreed with the concept: improve coordination between federal land management agenciesand utility companies that hold transmission rights-of-way (ROW) on U.S. public lands. Doing this would help utilities prevent fires sparked by frees contacting their power lines, and eliminate the need for last-minute work resulting from deferred maintenance. In turn, it would help the Forest Service (FS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) respond more quickly and consistently for requests to access and maintain ROWs on public lands, while at the same time protecting public natural resources from damage.
However, H.R. 1873 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. Instead of accepting our offer to work through these issues and develop a non-controversial version of the bill, the Majority chose to force the same language through the Committee again. Particularly given the concerns raised by the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the conservation community, we cannot support this legislation without modifications. We stand ready to work with Republicans to make those changes in advance of this bill reaching the floor.
Raul M. Grijalva,
Ranking Member, House
Committee on Natural
Ranking Member, Subcommittee
on Water, Power and
Grace F. Napolitano,
Member of Congress.
Member of Congress.
Nanette Diaz Barragan,
Member of Congress.
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