Harder Wildfire Amendments Pass House

September 24, 2020
Press Release
Legislation to Map Risk Around Electrical Infrastructure, Risk to Farmworkers Included in House Energy Bill

WASHINGTON – Today, two amendments introduced by Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) to help California protect the public from wildfires passed the House of Representatives as part of the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act. The amendments focus on protecting electrical infrastructure and reducing the effects of smoke on outdoor workers. The bill containing the amendments will now be sent to the Senate for consideration.

Electrical Infrastructure Amendment

This amendment directs the Secretary of Energy to generate a map that plots wildfire risk around utilities. This will allow for better planning around grid hardening, vegetation management, and emergency access points.

“We can’t trust PG&E to keep their infrastructure up and protect our communities from wildfires,” said Rep. Harder. “If they won’t do their jobs, we’ll have the Department of Energy do it for them. That’s just what my amendments would do.”

The 2018 Camp Fire, the deadliest on record, was caused by mismanagement of vegetation around electricity transmission lines owned by Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) according to CAL FIRE. As wildfire risk continues to increase, Rep. Harder’s amendment will provide expertise from the Department of Energy to help states like California to identify high-risk areas to prevent future deadly fires.

Representative Harder has been critical of PG&E for its decision to put profits ahead of safety concerns – by paying off shareholders and handing out executive bonuses instead of making responsible investments in their infrastructure. Rep. Harder also introduced the No Bonuses During Blackouts Act, which would revive the corporate alternative minimum tax (AMT) for utilities that offer executive bonuses but have failed to invest in climate-resilient infrastructure.

Farmworker Amendment

This amendment requires the Centers of Excellence established in the bill to consider the public health effects of wildfire smoke on outdoor workers – including farmworkers. The amendment would strengthen research and outreach, require collaboration between centers and grantees, and prioritizes institutions of higher education that have a proven track record of successfully implementing this commonsense work in selecting Centers of Excellence.  

“We’ve all seen the viral images of farmworkers picking food out in the smoke caused by all of these wildfires,” said Rep. Harder. “This has got to be a health risk for our farmworkers – and we need to be proactive about protecting them while they do their jobs.”