The National Special Districts Coalition (NSDC) supports H.R. 1586 (LaMalfa) and S. 796 (Lummis), the Forest Protection and Wildland Firefighter Safety Act of 2023 to formalize an exemption to the Clean Water Act to ensure firefighting agencies can continue to use fire retardant to fight wildfire.
NSDC Advocacy Alert: Join Coalition of Support for H.R. 1586 & S. 796
NSDC invites all fire protection district, other special districts providing essential services in high fire-risk, wildland-urban interface (WUI) communities to sign-on to a coalition letter of support to House and Senate Leadership as well as members of committees to which the bill has been assigned. Other interested local governments, agencies, and organizations concerned for the public health and safety of WUI communities are also welcome to sign-on.
Submit your district/agency/organization’s support by Wednesday, May 31, 9 p.m. ET, for inclusion on the coalition letter. This deadline could be shortened with short notice pending legislative activity. Those signing on may also request an individual template support letter to send to their federal representatives.
Firefighting agencies use fire retardant as an effective tool for fire suppression without seeking a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit under the Clean Water Act (CWA). This has been assumed as permissible based on Environmental Protection Agency communications dating back to 1993. However, the ability for federal agencies to fight fires without seeking such permits is unofficial.
A lawsuit filed in a Montana U.S. District Court calls into question the assumption, alleging the use of fire retardant for firefighting without NPDES permit is a CWA violation. The Forest Protection and Wildland Firefighter Protection Act would resolve this question.
In summary, the bipartisan legislation would codify the exemption that federal, state, and local firefighting agencies – including fire protection districts – leverage in order to use fire retardant to slow the advancement of wildfire. In doing so, firefighters will continue to have a reliable tool to keep WUI communities safe and critical infrastructure intact.
Without this codification, the ability for fire agencies to use the exemption for the application of retardant to slow wildfire advancement and protect WUI communities is at risk.
NSDC holds a support position on H.R. 1586 and S. 796 with elevated priority. Many special districts provide a range of essential services – including fire protection – in WUI and high-fire risk communities across the country.
For questions or concerns, contact Cole Arreola-Karr, NSDC Federal Advocacy Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.