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HR1873 Hazard Tree Removal

The bureaucratic tangle caused by our so-called environmental laws has reached the point that even dead trees on public lands that threaten to fall on powerlines and cause major forest fires cannot be removed without permission from federal bureaucrats.  To add insult to insanity, when the bureaucracy denies or delays permission and a fire results, the cost of the fire is paid by the utility’s customers through higher household electricity bills.

In La Pine, Oregon, the Midstate Electric Cooperative begged the Forest Service for permission to trim trees threatening their power lines and were refused.  Sure enough, one of those trees fell on a powerline and started a wildfire.  It cost a third of a million dollars.  Who paid it?  Every household served by Midstate.

Carbon Power and Light warned the Forest Service of trees threatening their lines.  The Forest Service required them first to conduct $1.6 million of environmental studies – paid by the utility’s customers.  If there had been a fire in the meantime, they would have had to pay those costs as well.

Mr. La Malfa’s bill basically does two things:

  • First, it exempts such projects from time-consuming and costly environmental reviews.  After all, there is nothing more devastating to the forest environment than a forest fire.  Our environmental laws are now causing these fires.
  • And second, when a federal agency delays or denies permission for a utility to remove or trim hazard trees and they end up causing a fire – the liability is placed where it belongs – on the agency and its bureaucrats – not on the utility and its customers.  And it gives the utility permission to remove imminent threats to powerlines before they can cause a fire.

You may have noticed that common sense is not common to government.  Let’s change that today, by adopting this bill.