WASHINGTON, Sept. 18, 2017 — The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday on two anti-public lands bills, S. 1460 and H.R. 1873, which would undermine environmental laws to expedite the approval of rights-of-way for large electric transmission projects.
Proper management of vegetation underneath transmission lines is necessary to minimize the risk of wildfires sparked by electrical power lines. But poor management of these areas can spread invasive species and fragment wildlife habitat.
Innovative programs have shown that rights-of-way can be effectively managed to create and protect habitat for rare animals and plants and decrease threats to wildlife. This legislation would allow agencies to ignore these options.
“Dousing these lands with herbicides and blindly chopping down every plant in sight is not the right way to go,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We can manage these natural areas for wildlife and still minimize fire risk, but not if we ignore the science and shut the door to innovative land management.”
S. 1460, the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017 — introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) — would waive environmental review of vegetation-management projects, preventing public input and scientific review of alternatives. In June, H.R. 1873, the Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act, introduced by Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.), which would impose similar restrictions, passed the House of Representatives, 300 to 118.
Federal regulations already require the land under electrical transmissions lines to be free of tall vegetation, including large trees, to prevent electrical wildfires.
In the first eight months of the 115th Congress, Republicans have introduced more than 70 bills that attack public lands, weaken environmental safeguards on those lands, or turn over control to states and local governments. These attacks come despite the fact that the vast majority of voters across political parties support protecting and maintaining forests, national parks, monuments, and other public lands and waters.