Blue Dog Coalition Endorses the Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act, Passes the House

Jun 21, 2017
Press Release

Today, H.R. 1873, the Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act passed in the House of Representatives with bipartisan support, 300-118. Prior to its passage, the Democratic Blue Dog Coalition endorsed the bipartisan bill, which was introduced by Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA). 

Electric utilities have more than 90,000 miles of electricity transmission and distribution rights of way across the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. The power lines delivering electricity across these lands are important for national grid reliability and for local power needs. However, hazardous trees have threatened these power lines, creating unfortunate opportunities for electricity blackouts and forest fires. Under current law, there has been inconsistent federal direction and decision making when it comes to reducing these hazards. Because of that, it can take months – even years in some cases – for utilities to receive Forest Service approval to remove hazardous trees from transmission lines rights of way, even if the trees are already in contact with electric transmission lines.

The Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act allows utility companies to more efficiently remove hazardous trees and other vegetation near transmission lines, reducing the risk of wildfires. It provides utilities with the ability to rapidly remove hazardous trees by receiving pre-approval from the Forest Service to manage transmission line rights of way and remove trees that are or could become hazards. Through this bill, if a utility requests authorization to remove a tree and is denied by the Forest Service, the Forest Service is responsible for any firefighting costs that result from the failure to remove the tree.

“Too often, government bureaucracy gets in the way of delivering basic services for the American people, and sometimes it can even create hazardous situations,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), the co-chair for communications. “Government agencies should serve the American people rather than regulate and punish them. This legislation provides a commonsense solution that makes the government process simpler and fairer, and in turn, prevents dangerous forest fires and ensures a reliable electrical grid.”

“This bill is an example of good governance: coming together on a bipartisan basis to solve problems that affect the lives of the American people,” said Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA), co-chair for administration. “We must continue to reach across the aisle to ensure that our government works more efficiently and effectively.”

“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.”

The Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act received bipartisan support in the House of Representatives. It has also received support from several organizations, including the following: National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), Edison Electric Institute (EEI), American Public Power Association (APPA), Western Governors’ Association (WGA), and Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E).