WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and Congressmen Mike Simpson and Russ Fulcher with Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.) yesterday cosponsored the Forest Protection and Wildland Firefighter Safety Act of 2023. The legislation was introduced in both chambers of Congress and would create a Clean Water Act exemption for federal, state, local, and tribal firefighting agencies to use fire retardant to fight 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 due to existing regulations and prior communications from the EPA that indicated a permit is not required.
Unfortunately, despite fire retardant’s long use as a safe, legal, and critical tool for suppressing wildfires, its use is under threat for the current and future fire seasons due to pending litigation. This bill would ensure it is available for protecting firefighters, families, and infrastructure in forested communities.
“Wildfires can raze entire communities, destroying livelihoods, displacing families and taking lives,” said Senator Crapo. “Instead of piling on more bureaucratic red tape, we should empower federal and local authorities to take action whenever wildfires threaten life and property. These fires must be taken seriously and not used as a political cudgel by environmental activists.”
“Fire retardant is an irreplaceable tool to fight wildfires, and it is critical this resource is available to federal, state, local, and tribal firefighting agencies,” said Senator Risch. “We must pass the Forest Protection and Wildland Firefighter Safety Act of 2023 to ensure we are equipped to protect homes, businesses, and most importantly, people, this fire season.”
“Fire retardant is a vital and effective measure and we must ensure it remains available for this 2023 fire season and beyond. As Chairman of the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, I look forward to continuing to work to ensure that our public lands agencies have the tools they need to respond to wildfires,” said Congressman Simpson.
“Years of neglect and mismanagement by the federal government has resulted in more frequent and destructive wildfires. We must maximize the tools at our disposal—including fire retardant—in order to better fight the fires that threaten our local communities, economies, environment, and health,” said Congressman Fulcher.