Congressman LaMalfa Introduces the Forest Protection and Wildland Firefighter Safety Act of 2023


Congressional Representatives Doug LaMalfa and Jimmy Panetta jointly filed a new bill in a bipartisan effort titled the Forest Protection and Wildland Firefighter Safety Act of 2023. The proposed legislation seeks to exempt federal, state, local, and tribal firefighting agencies from the Clean Water Act, allowing them to use fire retardant to fight wildfires.

As a crucial tool in containing and slowing the spread of wildfires, fire retardant is currently being used by agencies such as the Forest Service without requiring a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. However, the congressmen say this bill has become necessary due to an environmentalist group’s recent lawsuit against the Forest Service under the Clean Water Act, which seeks to require a permit for the use of fire retardant. The group has also requested an injunction on using fire retardant until the permit is obtained, which could take years. If the injunction is granted and fire retardant is not available for use in the upcoming 2023 fire year, there is potential to put firefighters and those living in forested areas at risk of danger. Additionally, millions of acres of forested land and billions of dollars of infrastructure would be at risk.

A companion bill has also been introduced in the Senate to support this bill’s efforts.