In response to dangerous air quality levels that have been in the unhealthy range in the Valley for nearly a month as a result of some of the worst wildfires in California’s history, Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) on Sept. 29 introduced the Wildfire Smoke Relief Act. The bill would allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help people who are at high risk of health complications from wildfire smoke to smoke-proof their homes and provide temporary emergency housing outside of smoky areas.
“Any time there’s extreme weather on the East Coast, the federal government moves heaven and earth to help out – we just want to make sure the West gets the same level of commitment for our unique needs,” said Rep. Harder. “FEMA needs the funding and authorization to help people not only get away from immediate fire danger, but also help all the other folks who have to deal with extreme smoke conditions in surrounding areas.”
Specifically, the Wildfire Smoke Relief Act would authorize FEMA to provide low-cost home improvements and smoke inhalation prevention equipment – like masks and air filters – when wildfire smoke causes unhealthy air quality levels for three consecutive days. It would also allow FEMA to make transitional housing available in extreme situations when smoke mitigation technology is insufficient to protect the health of at-risk individuals. The bill would ensure that the elderly, children, pregnant women, people living in poverty, and those with chronic health conditions get access to the tools they need to protect themselves from dangerous wildfire smoke. The Senate companion bill was introduced by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon.
Last week, two amendments Harder introduced 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, including farmworkers. 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.