Owens Helps Introduce the Forest Protection and Wildland Firefighter Safety Act of 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Burgess Owens (UT-04) helped introduce the Forest Protection and Wildland Firefighter Safety Act of 2023, legislation to create 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 and 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.

“Firefighters in Utah and across the west put their lives in harm’s way to keep our communities safe from wildfires’ threat to innocent lives, essential infrastructure, and the environment,” said Rep. Owens. “Fire retardant is a battle-tested tool to mitigate the impact of wildfires and ensures a safe working condition for our firefighters. I am proud to support the Forest Protection and Wildland Firefighter Safety Act of 2023 to expand the use of fire retardants and empower our firefighters with every weapon available to contain wildfires.”

An extreme environmentalist group is suing the Forest Service under the Clean Water Act in an attempt to prevent the use of fire retardant until the Forest Service receives a NDES 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.

The full text of the legislation is available here

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