Congressman Carbajal Touts Recently-Passed Legislative Package to Combat Climate Change, Help California Combat Wildfires and Drought
Legislation includes raises for federal firefighters, investments in water infrastructure, and improved government response to climate disasters
Santa Barbara, August 2, 2022
Tags: Environment and Energy
Today, Congressman Salud Carbajal highlighted his recent vote to pass a comprehensive legislative package aimed at improving climate resilience, restoration, and mitigation efforts to protect communities in California and across the country from the devastating effects of climate, wildfire, and drought.
This past Friday, Carbajal and a majority of the U.S. House of Representatives voted to advance H.R. 5118, the Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act, which makes strategic and targeted investments to protect frontline communities from the growing impacts of climate change by expanding science programs, modernizing data and technology, and ensuring a whole-of-government approach to wildfire and drought issues.
“In California, catastrophic and year-round fire seasons and historic drought are two of the most devastating impacts of the climate crisis. We see these impacts every single day, including just this week as we lost multiple Californians to the McKinney Fire, our largest so far this year,” said Congressman Carbajal. “While my heart is with the families who have been impacted by this year’s fires, as well as those who are still rebuilding years after our own communities were devastated, I know that sympathy is not enough. We need action.
“That is why I voted for the Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act,” Congressman Carbajal continued. “This comprehensive legislation will strengthen our electrical grids against extreme weather and natural disasters, improve our response to wildfires and drought, and provide assistance to families, communities, and businesses on the Central Coast when a disaster does strike. This legislation ensures a comprehensive whole-of-government approach that mitigates the impacts of these disasters, equips federal agencies with resources to respond, and implements strategic approaches to prevent them from happening in the future.”
Climate change has made drought more severe and persistent, with parts of the western United States experiencing their driest conditions in over 1,200 years.
As of mid-July, nearly half of the United States are in drought. Wildfires are now a year round threat, burning larger areas with greater intensity, as climate change reduces soil moisture and converts living forest vegetation into dry fuels. Together, the effects of drought and wildfire cost the United States roughly $20 billion in 2021 alone.
To improve wildfire response, the Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act:
· Establishes new hiring authorities and a minimum basic pay rate (approximately $20/hour) for wildland firefighters, as well as mental health leave and hazard pay.
· Authorizes a 10-Year National Wildfire Response Plan for landscape-scale projects across the country.
· Provides tools and resources to assist communities’ wildfire activities, including prescribed fires, and supports opportunities for Tribes and Conservation Corps in wildfire activities.
To improve drought resiliency, the Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act:
· Invests in innovative drought-proof water infrastructure, including water recycling and desalination projects.
· Secures water reliability for Indian Country by advancing tribal water rights settlements, investing $1 billion in tribal clean water access, and supporting technical assistance for tribal water needs.
· Supports the development of modern water management data and technology.
· Protects and restores important ecosystems and wildlife populations that have been impacted by drought and climate change.
To ensure a comprehensive, whole-of-government approach to wildfire and drought, the Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act also:
· Improves wildfire-related programs at the Department of Energy, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Fire Administration and provides improved assistance and relief for communities that have been impacted by recent wildfires.
· Establishes the National Disaster Safety Board and directs the President to establish a National Wildland Fire Risk Reduction Program.
· Advances environmental justice for communities that have been disproportionately harmed by environmental discrimination and climate change-induced wildfire and drought.
The funding included in this package builds on the funds secured in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which Carbajal helped craft and get signed into law in November 2021.
That measure includes billions of dollars in supplemental funding for the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to address drought, wildfire, and ecosystem restoration needs.
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