Congressmen author bill to preserve Forest Service’s use of fire retardant
Citing the importance of using fire retardant as an important tool for the Forest Service in fighting wild land fires, Congress is taking action.
Representatives Doug LaMalfa (R – CA) and Jimmy Panetta (D – CA) introduced the Forest Protection and Wildland Firefighter Safety Act of 2023 today, March 14. This bill creates a Clean Water Act exemption for federal, state, local, and tribal firefighting agencies to use fire retardant to fight wildfires. Fire retardant is an essential tool used to contain or slow the spread of wildfires. Currently the Forest Service and other agencies are operating under the assumption that a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit is not required for the use of fire retardant because the regulations specifically state that fire control is a “non-point source silvicultural activity” and communications from EPA dating back to 1993 indicated a permit is not required.
This bill is being introduced because an environmental group is suing the Forest Service under the Clean Water Act to require a NPDES permit to use fire retardant, and they have requested an injunction on the use of fire retardant until the Forest Service receives this permit, which could take years. If the injunction is granted and fire retardant is not available for use in the 2023 fire year, firefighters and individuals living in forested areas would be in peril, millions of acres of forested land would be in danger, and billions of dollars of infrastructure would be at risk.
Congressmen LaMalfa and Panetta were joined by 22 Members of Congress: Reps. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), John Duarte (R-CA), Russ Fulcher (R-ID), Tom McClintock (R-CA), John Garamendi (D-CA), Austin Scott (R-GA), Amata Radewagen (R-AS), Troy Nehls (R-TX), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Rick Crawford (R-AR), Young Kim (R-CA), Ryan Zinke (R-MT), Blake Moore (R-UT), Burgess Owens (R-UT), Mike Simpson (R-ID), Trent Kelly (R-MS), Ken Calvert (R-CA), Pete Stauber (R-MN), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Mary Miller (R-IL), Kevin Kiley (R-CA), and Matt Rosendale (R-MT).
Senator Cynthia Lummis (R – WY) introduced a companion bill in the Senate.
“Fire retardant is an essential tool in wildland firefighting, especially in the West. Not only is it absurd to try to take away that tool, it’s flat out dangerous. These regressive environmentalists are scared that a little bit of fire retardant could get into our rivers while we’re fighting another million-acre fire. But they care nothing about the forests burning down, people and animals fleeing for their lives, and the land covered in ash. Pollution from even larger fires will not only harm fish, but the air pollution will choke vulnerable people up to hundreds of miles away,” said Congressman LaMalfa.