Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today introduced three bills to help the public, businesses, and agricultural operators combat the effects of wildfire smoke, and recover from the damage it causes.
That includes the Wildfire Smoke Emergency Declaration Act, the Smoke Planning and Research Act, and the Wildfire Smoke Relief Act.
This is the latest in a years-long effort by Merkley and Wyden to help prevent, fight, and recover from increasingly severe wildfires. The bills also fall in line as the Bootleg fire continues to grow at a fast pace.
The Wildfire Smoke Emergency Declaration Act would allow the president to declare a “smoke emergency” when wildfire smoke creates hazardous air quality conditions.
It would also authorize federal agencies to provide emergency assistance to states and local communities to establish smoke shelters, assist with relocation efforts, and install emergency smoke monitors.
The Small Business Administration would be authorized to provide financial relief to businesses affected by wildfire smoke to help cover lost revenue.
The Smoke Planning and Research Act would provide federal funding to help communities research, develop, and implement plans to help mitigate smoke.
This bill would do that by creating four Centers of Excellence at institutions of higher education to ensure that research is responsive to the challenges that people face on the ground.
In addition, $20 million in research funding through the Environmental Protection Agency to study the public health impacts of wildfire smoke and effective responses would also be made available.
Creating a grant program at EPA under this act is meant to help local communities plan and respond to wildfire smoke.
The Wildfire Smoke Relief Act would provide federal emergency assistance to at-risk individuals, including the elderly, children and infants, low-income families, pregnant women, and those with chronic health conditions made worse by wildfire smoke.
The act authorizes FEMA to provide these individuals with 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.
FEMA would also provide transitional sheltering assistance for at-risk individuals in extreme circumstances.