Senators Introduce Bills to Help Communities Harmed By Wildfires

Oregon’s U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley have introduced four bills that they say will help the public, businesses, and agricultural operations combat the effects of wildfire smoke, and recover from the damage it causes.

The pieces of legislation are named: the Smoke-Ready Communities Act, the Wildfire Smoke Emergency Declaration Act, the Farmworker Smoke Protection Act and the Smoke Planning and Research Act.

Merkley said last August in the Rogue Valley business owners and organizations told him how the smoke caused lost reservations, cancelled shows, and even irreparable damage at a furniture store after fabrics absorbed the smell of the smoke. He said people talked about having respiratory problems even indoors, because HVAC systems weren’t equipped to handle the level of pollution that they were experiencing. Merkley said communities all over the state experienced those impacts.

Merkley said the nation must invest in preventative measures to contain wildfires and keep them from becoming intense, destructive blazes.

Wyden said he has seen firsthand how the damage from wildfire smoke to public health and the local economies of communities throughout Oregon and the nation becomes painfully clear each year. He said the comprehensive package of bills will help protect those communities and respond more effectively to the impacts of the destructive blazes.

According to a release from the Senators:

*The Smoke-Ready Communities Act would make necessary air quality upgrades more accessible by providing funding to help local communities invest in protecting public health from wildfire smoke.

*The Wildfire Smoke Emergency Declaration Act would allow the president to declare “a smoke emergency” when wildfire smoke creates hazardous air quality conditions.

*The Farmworker Smoke Protection Act would help ensure that farmworkers are protected from hazardous wildfire smoke.

*The Smoke Planning and Research Act would provide federal funding to help communities research, develop, and implement plans to help mitigate the smoke.

The release said businesses in Oregon lost an estimated $51.1 million in revenue during 2017 alone due to wildfire smoke.