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house Bill H.R. 2921

Creating a Pilot Program for Utilities to Manage Vegetation Near Powerlines on Forest Service Lands to Prevent Wildfires

Argument in favor

A pilot program aimed at reducing wildfires by letting utility companies manage vegetation near the rights-of-way on Forest Service land would be worthwhile, and in this case it comes at no cost.

Mark t's Opinion
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10/30/2017
This program should and in some cases is already being done. As a retired lineman and line patrolman, this is something that has to be done. These transmission lines not only carry high voltage but they are the life line to many cities. If they are not patrolled and maintained, forest fires and outages can occur. The expense of this is maintained by the utility company’s.
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Jim2423's Opinion
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10/30/2017
Only ignorance would not pass this bill. I have seen trees when wet create a good arc to ground from power lines. Forty years with the power company. This should have already been in practice. But lately some of the government bureaucracies think 🤔 they control everything.
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KianaMalia's Opinion
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10/30/2017
This seems like a very practical idea. If our Reps. could look into the details of it I trust their opinions on whether or not there should be support behind it.
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Argument opposed

There shouldn’t be a pilot program that lets utility companies manage vegetation outside of their rights-of-way on Forest Service land. The strict liability standard should remain even if it deters participation.

Michael777's Opinion
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10/30/2017
Sounds more like a giveaway of public land to private special interests. We should not be hurting our environment more than we already are!
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Kodiwodi's Opinion
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10/30/2017
Totally unnecessary program. We do not need private utilities to be managing forest service easements. This sounds like one more excuse for logging on public lands.
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MBoazNorwood's Opinion
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10/30/2017
I don't have faith that the utility companies would use the program appropriately. How about the National, State, and Local parks commissions maintain the land in an effort to reduce the risk of wild fires. I'm not putting that in the hands of a for-profit entity.
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What is House Bill H.R. 2921?

This bill would establish a pilot program allowing electric utilities to conduct vegetation management projects such as tree thinning and fuel reduction within 75 feet of their rights-of-way on lands managed by the Forest Service to prevent wildfires. The pilot program would be funded entirely by utility companies that choose to participate.

To encourage participation, the current strict liability standard would be replaced with a gross negligence standard for off-right-of-way work. That means companies would only be liable if the damage they caused was through gross negligence or a failure to comply with safety requirements imposed by the Forest Service.

Impact

Participating utility companies; infrastructure, homes, and forest that'd be effected by wildfire; and the Forest Service.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 2921

$0.00
The CBO estimates that implementing this bill would have no significant effect on the federal budget.

More Information

In-DepthSponsoring Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) introduced this bill to create a privately funded pilot program to conduct vegetation management near utility infrastructure outside of a right-of-way:

“Costs for wildfire management within the Forest Service have gone up significantly, nearly tripling the amount of the agency’s budget in the last 20 plus years. A fire destroying utility infrastructure comes with its own costs from customer outages to replacement. With the private sector footing the bill, everyone benefits from this pilot program – the federal government cuts costs, the risk of fires is reduced, and utilities can better maintain their infrastructure, which benefits all of us.”

This legislation passed the House Agriculture Committee on a voice vote and has the support of nine bipartisan cosponsors, including six Democrats and three Republicans.


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: Omegaforest / iStock)

AKA

National Forest System Vegetation Management Pilot Program Act of 2017

Official Title

To establish a vegetation management pilot program on National Forest System land to better protect utility infrastructure from passing wildfire, and for other purposes.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry
  • The house Passed October 31st, 2017
    Passed by Voice Vote
      house Committees
      Committee on Agriculture
      Conservation and Forestry
      National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands
      Committee on Natural Resources
    IntroducedJune 15th, 2017

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    This program should and in some cases is already being done. As a retired lineman and line patrolman, this is something that has to be done. These transmission lines not only carry high voltage but they are the life line to many cities. If they are not patrolled and maintained, forest fires and outages can occur. The expense of this is maintained by the utility company’s.
    Like (81)
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    Sounds more like a giveaway of public land to private special interests. We should not be hurting our environment more than we already are!
    Like (43)
    Follow
    Share
    Only ignorance would not pass this bill. I have seen trees when wet create a good arc to ground from power lines. Forty years with the power company. This should have already been in practice. But lately some of the government bureaucracies think 🤔 they control everything.
    Like (20)
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    Share
    Totally unnecessary program. We do not need private utilities to be managing forest service easements. This sounds like one more excuse for logging on public lands.
    Like (19)
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    I don't have faith that the utility companies would use the program appropriately. How about the National, State, and Local parks commissions maintain the land in an effort to reduce the risk of wild fires. I'm not putting that in the hands of a for-profit entity.
    Like (14)
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    This is obviously the responsibility of the utility company not the government! Give the utility company the right to maintain their assets on their own dollar.
    Like (10)
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    This seems like a very practical idea. If our Reps. could look into the details of it I trust their opinions on whether or not there should be support behind it.
    Like (6)
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    It’s really difficult to vote on these things with such limited detail.
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    I’ve seen the destruction utilities have done just in small areas Unless the forest service is going to be on site and has the ability to stop a job, no
    Like (5)
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    The DOI should be contracting for this service.
    Like (5)
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    I don’t trust the encroachment of public lands will end there. This is a slippery slope.
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    Its groovy as long as it's privately paid for.
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    No. This sounds like a way to open up our public lands to private interests. We need to protect our public lands and environment, not allow them to be put at risk from private utility companies. Keep the system as it is now.
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    This is a good idea but For so many people to say it is great as long as the Utility company pays for it not the tax payer is naive. The Utility companies will gladly take this responsibility because it will give them a great reason for a rate hike!!
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    More effort should be put towards assisting the Forest Service with maintaining vegetation, which helps maintain the strict but important land ownership policies that protect forests.
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    We're on a slippery slope here. We can't really expect a private, for profit company to ever place public interest over money when we can't count on our elected officials.
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    The utilities already have land that they clear for they utilizes thru public lands. 75 ft seems like s large area. Seems like a giveaway of National Public Lands to corporations. They already get a subsidy - why I don’t understand because they charge the customer twice what energy they use by putting special charges on every bill.
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    Although we need to look at measures to help prevent forest fires, this bill does not accomplish that. It just makes utilities less accountable for damage, which makes it less likely any work they do to the landscape to prevent fires will be done in an environmentally sound way.
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    Pilot programs can be a good way to see what works and what doesn't within a program, exposing both new solutions and unanticipated abuses. I'd like to see clear objectives and measurement standards defining success and determining exactly where the line between strict liability and gross negligence would be drawn in such cases. The utility companies if taking on duties need to be held reasonably liable if they neglect them or get too enthusiastic , but should still see a reduction in the stakes if they are making good faith efforts in coordination with public agencies. A pilot program might help clarify such questions but should go forward only with strict oversight.
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    I am in favor of allowing the utility companies to manage the vegetation near the right of way on Forest Service land; especially since it comes at no cost to the tax payer. Whatever we can do to stop the deadly forest fires is in my judgement an absolute neccessity.
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