Wildfire smoke: West and East Coast lawmakers collaborate on changing policy

Smoke from wildfires in Canada enshrouds the U.S. Capitol, on Wednesday, June 8, 2023. The Air Quality Index reached Code Purple Wednesday morning as smoke continues to move south over the east coast of the United States.
Smoke from wildfires in Canada enshrouds the U.S. Capitol, on Wednesday, June 8, 2023. The Air Quality Index reached Code Purple Wednesday morning as smoke continues to move south over the east coast of the United States. Graeme Jennings/Graeme Jennings

Wildfire smoke: West and East Coast lawmakers collaborate on changing policy

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Following the wildfire smoke that drifted down from Canada into the Northeastern United States last week, a group of U.S. lawmakers representing both the West and East Coast demographics is working together to introduce legislation that would address future wildfire crises.

Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA), Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) will soon propose a wildfire and forest management-related bill that would establish public clean air centers and distribute air filtration units to some households in wildfire-prone areas, according to an Axios report. The three lawmakers are leading the initiative, while several others from the Eastern Seaboard support the environmentally conscious push.

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“For the first time, non-Western members are proactively engaging us on wildfire policy,” Peters said.

Among the soon-to-be proposed legislation is the Cleaner Air Spaces Act, which would order the Environmental Protection Agency to provide grants of up to $3 million to air pollution agencies and community organizations for the purpose of creating clean air centers. These programs would then be required to provide educational materials and a minimum of 1,000 air filtration units to vulnerable residents living in low-income homes.

The legislation was co-sponsored by several Democratic lawmakers, including Reps. Seth Moulton (D-MA), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Dean Phillips (D-MN), and Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

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If the proposed bill receives bipartisan support among state representatives, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) could soon decide to put it to a vote. McCarthy worked with Peters on similar legislation in the past.

“I think you will see a big push going forward on bills like this to deal with the consequences of fires and on commonsense bipartisan forest management solutions,” Peters said.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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