Rep. Maxine Waters, Chairwoman of the House Finance Committee, announced the House passage of “The Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act,” which included his bill, HR 8483, “The Wildfire Insurance Coverage Study Act of 2022.” HR 8483 requires the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct studies to assess the risk that wildfires pose to communities and how the homeowner’s insurance market is responding to the growing threat.
“I am pleased that my bill was included in the Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act,” said Rep. Waters. “As the effects of climate change worsen, especially here in California, where entire communities have been destroyed by wildfires, we need to better understand how to prepare and protect families and their homes from this increased risk. I encourage my colleagues in the Senate to bring this legislation to the President’s desk. to make sure families have the protection they need.”
The Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act:
- He instituted new regulations and minimum wages (around $20/hour) for wildland firefighters, as well as mental health leave and emergency pay.
- Approves a 10-year National Fire Response Plan for major projects across the country.
- They provide equipment and resources to support community firefighting operations, including assigned fires, and support the Tribes and Conservation Corps’ access to fire services.
To address drought, The Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act:
- Provides $500 million to prevent major Colorado River reservoirs from declining to unsafe levels.
- It invests in drought-proof water systems, including water recycling and desalination projects.
- It protects water security in Indian country, by advancing water rights, investing $1 billion in access to clean water for tribes, and providing technical assistance for tribal water needs.
- It helps the development of information technology water management and technology.
- Protecting and restoring important natural resources and wildlife affected by drought and climate change.
To ensure the state’s comprehensive response to wildfires and droughts, The Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act also:
- Promote wildfire related programs at the Department of Energy, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Environmental Protection Agency, and US Fire Administration and provide effective support and assistance to communities affected by recent wildfires.
- Establishes the National Disaster Safety Board and directs the President to establish the National Wildland Fire Reduction Program.
- Advancing environmental justice for communities disproportionately harmed by environmental discrimination and climate change caused by wildfires and droughts.
- It replaces the Stafford Act, the law that mandates FEMA’s disaster response, enabling FEMA to respond more effectively to wildfires.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein said: “As climate change worsens and temperatures increase, we know that droughts will be more damaging and wildfires will be more deadly. “That’s why these two issues are my top priorities, and I’m happy that several things I wrote this year have been included in the bill that passed today. I am working to ensure that the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will introduce similar legislation later this year. “
Wildfires are now a year-round threat, burning large swaths of land at high intensity, and wildfire activity is only increasing as drought and climate change reduce soil moisture and turn living forests into dry fuel. Climate change has also made the drought more severe and persistent, with parts of the western US experiencing the heaviest rainfall in more than 1,200 years. Together, the effects of drought and wildfires cost the country more than $20 billion in 2021 alone.
Cheri Bustos, director of the Illinois Association, said: “As severe weather increases, we continue to see the devastating effects of wildfires on American households. “I was proud to provide clear legislation to help prevent these accidents and make people more resilient.”