LaMalfa Introduces CLEAR Zones Act
(Washington, DC) – Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) issued the following statement after introducing H.R. 5744, the Clearing Lines along Electrical At-Risk Zones (CLEAR Zones) Act. H.R. 5744 builds off current law resulting from the passage of Congressman LaMalfa’s Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act, which provided a process through the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture to remove trees that posed a hazard to nearby power lines. The CLEAR Zones Act extends the area around utility rights-of-way that must be kept safe from hazard trees, accelerates the review process by providing for a categorical exemption from environmental assessments, and ensures plans will be approved within 60 days.
LaMalfa said: “Trees along power lines serve as potential sources of ignition and catastrophic fire in our forests. The longer utility companies must wait for a hazardous tree removal permit approval, the more at-risk power lines become to hazard trees falling upon them This bill builds on our previous effort to expand the safety zone in order to be more effective. The bill reduces lengthy wait times to do effective active forest management and increases the buffer zone near power line rights-of-way, allowing improved fire prevention and better protection of homes, buildings, wildlife and the forest itself."
Current law states that the Secretary must review and approve the management plans “to the maximum extent practicable” in 120 days. The CLEAR Zones Act would cut this period in half and requires the Secretary to approve the submitted plans within 60 days in order to more quickly manage vegetative overgrowth and trees that pose a hazard to powerlines. This legislation also extends the distance for clearing trees and parts of trees from 10 feet to 50 feet on either side of the powerline. Lastly, the approval process is given a categorical exemption from the environmental assessments of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act to ensure that critical habitats and public lands are not burned due to excessive environmental reviews and lawsuits.