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114th Congress   }                                   {   Rept. 114-287
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 1st Session     }                                   {          Part 1

======================================================================



 
           ELECTRICITY RELIABILITY AND FOREST PROTECTION ACT

                                _______
                                

October 6, 2015.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the 
              State of the Union and ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

Mr. Bishop of Utah, from the Committee on Natural Resources, submitted 
                             the following

                              R E P O R T

                             together with

                            DISSENTING VIEWS

                        [To accompany H.R. 2358]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Natural Resources, to whom was referred 
the bill (H.R. 2358) to amend the Federal Land Policy and 
Management Act of 1976 to enhance the reliability of the 
electricity grid and reduce the threat of wildfires to and from 
electric transmission and distribution facilities on Federal 
lands by facilitating vegetation management on such lands, 
having considered the same, report favorably thereon with an 
amendment and recommend that the bill as amended do pass.
    The amendment is as follows:
  Strike all after the enacting clause and insert the 
following:

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

  This Act may be cited as the ``Electricity Reliability and Forest 
Protection Act''.

SEC. 2. VEGETATION MANAGEMENT, FACILITY INSPECTION, AND OPERATION AND 
                    MAINTENANCE ON FEDERAL LANDS CONTAINING ELECTRIC 
                    TRANSMISSION AND DISTRIBUTION FACILITIES.

  (a) In General.--Title V of the Federal Land Policy and Management 
Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1761 et seq.) is amended by adding at the end 
the following new section:

``SEC. 512. VEGETATION MANAGEMENT, FACILITY INSPECTION, AND OPERATION, 
                    AND MAINTENANCE RELATING TO ELECTRIC TRANSMISSION 
                    AND DISTRIBUTION FACILITY RIGHTS-OF-WAY.

  ``(a) General Direction.--In order to enhance the reliability of the 
electricity grid and reduce the threat of wildfires to and from 
electric transmission and distribution rights-of-way and related 
facilities and adjacent property, the Secretary, with respect to public 
lands and other lands under the jurisdiction of the Secretary, and the 
Secretary of Agriculture, with respect to National Forest System lands, 
shall provide direction to ensure that all existing and future rights-
of-way, however established (including by grant, special use 
authorization, and easement), for electrical transmission and 
distribution facilities on such lands include provisions for utility 
vegetation management, facility inspection, and operation and 
maintenance activities that, while consistent with applicable law--
          ``(1) are developed in consultation with the holder of the 
        right-of-way;
          ``(2) enable the owner or operator of a facility to operate 
        and maintain the facility in good working order and to comply 
        with Federal, State and local electric system reliability and 
        fire safety requirements, including reliability standards 
        established by the North American Electric Reliability 
        Corporation and plans to meet such reliability standards;
          ``(3) minimize the need for case-by-case or annual approvals 
        for--
                  ``(A) routine vegetation management, facility 
                inspection, and operation and maintenance activities 
                within existing electrical transmission and 
                distribution rights-of-way; and
                  ``(B) utility vegetation management activities that 
                are necessary to control hazard trees within or 
                adjacent to electrical transmission and distribution 
                rights-of-way; and
          ``(4) when review is required, provide for expedited review 
        and approval of utility vegetation management, facility 
        inspection, and operation and maintenance activities, 
        especially activities requiring prompt action to avoid an 
        adverse impact on human safety or electric reliability to avoid 
        fire hazards.
  ``(b) Vegetation Management, Facility Inspection, and Operation and 
Maintenance Plans.--
          ``(1) Development and submission.--Consistent with subsection 
        (a), the Secretary and the Secretary of Agriculture shall 
        provide owners and operators of electric transmission and 
        distribution facilities located on lands described in such 
        subsection with the option to develop and submit a vegetation 
        management, facility inspection, and operation and maintenance 
        plan, that at each owner or operator's transmission discretion 
        may cover some or all of the owner or operator's transmission 
        and distribution rights-of-way on Federal lands, for approval 
        to the Secretary with jurisdiction over the lands. A plan under 
        this paragraph shall enable the owner or operator of a 
        facility, at a minimum, to comply with applicable Federal, 
        State, and local electric system reliability and fire safety 
        requirements, as provided in subsection (a)(2). The Secretaries 
        shall not have the authority to modify those requirements.
          ``(2) Review and approval process.--The Secretary and the 
        Secretary of Agriculture shall jointly develop a consolidated 
        and coordinated process for review and approval of--
                  ``(A) vegetation management, facility inspection, and 
                operation and maintenance plans submitted under 
                paragraph (1) that--
                          ``(i) assures prompt review and approval not 
                        to exceed 90 days;
                          ``(ii) includes timelines and benchmarks for 
                        agency comments to submitted plans and final 
                        approval of such plans;
                          ``(iii) is consistent with applicable law; 
                        and
                          ``(iv) minimizes the costs of the process to 
                        the reviewing agency and the entity submitting 
                        the plans; and
                  ``(B) amendments to the plans in a prompt manner if 
                changed conditions necessitate a modification to a 
                plan.
          ``(3) Notification.--The review and approval process under 
        paragraph (2) shall--
                  ``(A) include notification by the agency of any 
                changed conditions that warrant a modification to a 
                plan;
                  ``(B) provide an opportunity for the owner or 
                operator to submit a proposed plan amendment to address 
                directly the changed condition; and
                  ``(C) allow the owner or operator to continue to 
                implement those elements of the approved plan that do 
                not directly and adversely affect the condition 
                precipitating the need for modification.
          ``(4) Categorical exclusion process.--The Secretary and the 
        Secretary of Agriculture shall apply his or her categorical 
        exclusion process under the National Environmental Policy Act 
        of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) to plans developed under this 
        subsection on existing transmission and distribution rights-of-
        way under this subsection.
          ``(5) Implementation.--A plan approved under this subsection 
        shall become part of the authorization governing the covered 
        right-of-way and hazard trees adjacent to the right-of-way. If 
        a vegetation management plan is proposed for an existing 
        transmission and distribution facility concurrent with the 
        siting of a new transmission or distribution facility, 
        necessary reviews shall be completed as part of the siting 
        process or sooner. Once the plan is approved, the owner or 
        operator shall provide the agency with only a notification of 
        activities anticipated to be undertaken in the coming year, a 
        description of those activities, and certification that the 
        activities are in accordance with the plan.
          ``(6) Definitions.--In this subsection:
                  ``(A) Vegetation management, facility inspection, and 
                operation and maintenance plan.--The term `vegetation 
                management, facility inspection, and operation and 
                maintenance plan' means a plan that--
                          ``(i) is prepared by the owner or operator of 
                        one or more electrical transmission or 
                        distribution facilities to cover one or more 
                        electric transmission and distribution rights-
                        of-way; and
                          ``(ii) provides for the long-term, cost-
                        effective, efficient and timely management of 
                        facilities and vegetation within the width of 
                        the right-of-way and adjacent Federal lands to 
                        enhance electricity reliability, promote public 
                        safety, and avoid fire hazards.
                  ``(B) Owner or operator.--The terms `owner' and 
                `operator' include contractors or other agents engaged 
                by the owner or operator of a facility.
                  ``(C) Hazard tree.--The term `hazard tree' means any 
                tree inside the right-of-way or located outside the 
                right-of-way that has been found by the either the 
                owner or operator of a transmission or distribution 
                facility, or the Secretary or the Secretary of 
                Agriculture, to be likely to fail and cause a high risk 
                of injury, damage, or disruption within 10 feet or less 
                of an electric power line or related structure if it 
                fell.
  ``(c) Response to Emergency Conditions.--If vegetation on Federal 
lands within, or hazard trees on Federal lands adjacent to, an 
electrical transmission or distribution right-of-way granted by the 
Secretary or the Secretary of Agriculture has contacted or is in 
imminent danger of contacting one or more electric transmission or 
distribution lines, the owner or operator of the transmission or 
distribution lines--
          ``(1) may prune or remove the vegetation to avoid the 
        disruption of electric service and risk of fire; and
          ``(2) shall notify the appropriate local agent of the 
        relevant Secretary not later than 24 hours after such removal.
  ``(d) Compliance With Applicable Reliability and Safety Standards.--
If vegetation on Federal lands within or adjacent to an electrical 
transmission or distribution right-of-way under the jurisdiction of 
each Secretary does not meet clearance requirements under standards 
established by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, or 
by State and local authorities, and the Secretary having jurisdiction 
over the lands has failed to act to allow a transmission or 
distribution facility owner or operator to conduct vegetation 
management activities within 3 business days after receiving a request 
to allow such activities, the owner or operator may, after notifying 
the Secretary, conduct such vegetation management activities to meet 
those clearance requirements.
  ``(e) Reporting Requirement.--The Secretary or Secretary of 
Agriculture shall report requests and actions made under subsections 
(c) and (d) annually on each Secretary's website.
  ``(f) Liability.--An owner or operator of a transmission or 
distribution facility shall not be held liable for wildfire damage, 
loss or injury, including the cost of fire suppression, if--
          ``(1) the Secretary or the Secretary of Agriculture fails to 
        allow the owner or operator to operate consistently with an 
        approved vegetation management, facility inspection, and 
        operation and maintenance plan on Federal lands under the 
        relevant Secretary's jurisdiction within or adjacent to a 
        right-of-way to comply with Federal, State or local electric 
        system reliability and fire safety standards, including 
        standards established by the North American Electric 
        Reliability Corporation; or
          ``(2) the Secretary or the Secretary of Agriculture fails to 
        allow the owner or operator of the transmission or distribution 
        facility to perform appropriate vegetation management 
        activities in response to an identified hazard tree as defined 
        under subsection (b)(6), or a tree in imminent danger of 
        contacting the owner's or operator's transmission or 
        distribution facility.
  ``(g) Training and Guidance.--In consultation with the electric 
utility industry, the Secretary and the Secretary of Agriculture are 
encouraged to develop a program to train personnel of the Department of 
the Interior and the Forest Service involved in vegetation management 
decisions relating to transmission and distribution facilities to 
ensure that such personnel--
          ``(1) understand electric system reliability and fire safety 
        requirements, including reliability standards established by 
        the North American Electric Reliability Corporation;
          ``(2) assist owners and operators of transmission and 
        distribution facilities to comply with applicable electric 
        reliability and fire safety requirements; and
          ``(3) encourage and assist willing owners and operators of 
        transmission and distribution facilities to incorporate on a 
        voluntary basis vegetation management practices to enhance 
        habitats and forage for pollinators and for other wildlife so 
        long as the practices are compatible with the integrated 
        vegetation management practices necessary for reliability and 
        safety.
  ``(h) Implementation.--The Secretary of the Interior and the 
Secretary of Agriculture shall--
          ``(1) not later than one year after the date of the enactment 
        of this section, prescribe regulations, or amend existing 
        regulations, to implement this section; and
          ``(2) not later than two years after the date of the 
        enactment of this section, finalize regulations, or amend 
        existing regulations, to implement this section.
  ``(i) Existing Vegetation Management, Facility Inspection and 
Operation and Maintenance Plans.--Nothing in this section requires an 
owner or operator to develop and submit a vegetation management, 
facility inspection, and operation and maintenance plan if one has 
already been approved by the Secretary or Secretary of Agriculture 
before the date of the enactment of this section.''.
  (b) Clerical Amendment.--The table of sections for the Federal Land 
Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1761 et seq.), is amended 
by inserting after the item relating to section 511 the following new 
item:

``Sec. 512. Vegetation management, facility inspection, and operation, 
and maintenance relating to electric transmission and distribution 
facility rights-of-way.''.

                          Purpose of the Bill

    The purpose of H.R. 2358 is to amend the Federal Land 
Policy and Management Act of 1976 to enhance the reliability of 
the electricity grid and reduce the threat of wildfires to and 
from electric transmission and distribution facilities on 
Federal lands by facilitating vegetation management on such 
lands.

                  Background and Need for Legislation

    The goal of H.R. 2358 is to support reliable electricity 
service and to reduce the risk of fires and fire hazards caused 
by inadequate vegetation management in and adjacent to power 
line rights-of-way on some federally managed lands. H.R. 2358 
seeks to reduce such wildfires, in part, by promoting 
consistency, accountability, and timely federal decision-making 
as it relates to protecting electricity transmission and 
distribution lines on some federal lands from hazard trees. The 
bipartisan Western Governors Association wrote, in supporting 
this legislation, that ``[o]ne of our forest management 
priorities is fire prevention, particularly as we enter 
wildfire season. Reliability of the region's electrical 
transmission grid is also a critical interest. This legislation 
would play an important role in both.''\1\ This legislation is 
the result of oversight and legislative hearings spanning the 
current and the last Administrations.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\Western Governors Association Letter from Governors Mathew Mead 
and Steve Bullock to Congressman Ryan Zinke and Kurt Schrader, August 
27, 2015, p.2.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    This bill deals specifically with electricity rights-of-way 
(ROW) on U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management 
(BLM) lands. Forest Service lands include 3,000 authorized 
electric transmission and distribution facilities, accounting 
for nearly 18,000 miles of electric rights-of-way.\2\ BLM has 
over 71,613 miles of electricity transmission and distribution 
lines.\3\ The costs of operating, maintaining and repairing 
electricity lines on these ROW on federal land are borne by 
utility companies and their electricity ratepayers.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \2\Testimony of Mr. Jim Pena, Associate Deputy Chief of the 
National Forest System, U.S. Forest Service, House Committee on Natural 
Resources, Oversight Hearing on ``Keeping the Lights On and Reducing 
Catastrophic Forest Fire Risk: Proper Management of Electricity Rights 
of Way on Federal Lands,'' May 7, 2014, p. 2.
    \3\Department of Energy: ``Report to Congress: Corridors and 
Rights-of-Way on Federal Lands,'' p. 2, available at: http://
energy.gov/sites/prod/files/oeprod/DocumentsandMedia/
congress_020906.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    A properly maintained electricity ROW can have multiple 
benefits. While one benefit is a linear path for delivering 
electricity from a generation source to electricity ratepayers, 
another beneficial purpose is the creation of wildlife 
corridors. According to the National Wild Turkey Foundation 
(NWTF), ``the most important turkey use of a ROW is for 
reproduction. Several studies have found that many hens 
selected old field vegetation on a ROW for nesting . . . the 
close proximity of the forest and old field habitat offers a 
variety of resources (e.g. food) for turkeys and other wildlife 
. . . the food chain begins with grasses and forbs, which are 
eaten by rats and rabbits, which are eaten by predators, who 
might also eat turkey eggs, poults, and adults.''\4\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \4\George A. Hurst, ``Rights-Of-Way for Wildlife,'' NWTF Wildlife 
Bulletin No. 19, The National Wild Turkey Federation, available at: 
https://www.mdwfp.com/media/7662/rights-of-way.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In addition, properly managed ROW can provide a source of 
our domestic food supply. According to the North American 
Pollinator Protection Campaign:

        Unlike honey bees, which live together in hives, 
        butterflies and most wild bees live solitary lives and 
        nest in the soil, plants or wood debris provided by a 
        well-managed utility ROW. Prairie grass and wildflowers 
        growing under electrical conductors or over pipelines 
        insure safe access for the utility, while providing 
        pollinator food and shelter. Shrubs retained along the 
        edge of the ROW can provide food and shelter for 
        songbirds and small mammals, while scattered dead trees 
        can be left as snags for nesting birds, bats and other 
        mammals. Other pollinators like beetles, flies, and 
        lizards also benefit from a biodiverse ROW area. 
        Pollinating animals assist plants in reproduction by 
        transferring pollen, allowing those plants to produce 
        berries, nuts and other foods important to the survival 
        of many species of wildlife, and to the production of 
        an estimated \1/3\ of the human food supply!\5\
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    \5\http://www.pollinator.org/PDFs/NAPPC.broch.ROW.rx7.pdf.

    Electricity ROW are usually in need of active vegetation 
management since they can be surrounded by living, dead or 
dying trees that can make contact with a power line if not 
properly maintained. Vegetation management is a critical tool 
for safeguarding electricity infrastructure and wildlife 
habitat on ROW located on federal and other lands. The goals of 
vegetation management are to ensure electricity line 
reliability to prevent tree-related fires and keep the public 
and habitat safe. A typical vegetation management program 
carried out by an electric utility with above-ground 
transmission or distribution lines includes tree pruning and 
removal, manual or mechanical vegetation control around poles 
or substations, tree-planting or transplanting, routine 
vegetation inspections and tree inventories. The standard 
utility practice for managing these ROW is called Integrated 
Vegetation Management (IVM), which is generally defined as the 
``practice of promoting desirable, stable, low-growing plant 
communities--that will resist invasion by tall-growing tree 
species--through the use of appropriate, environmentally sound, 
and cost-effective control methods.''\6\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \6\``Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM) Fact Sheet'', U.S. EPA, 
PestWise Program, available at: http://www.epa.gov/pesp/
htmlpublications/ivm_fact_sheet.html.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    As noted above, there are almost 90,000 miles of electric 
transmission and distribution lines on Forest Service and BLM 
lands. To perform infrastructure inspections and operate and 
maintain power lines on these lands, electric utilities seek 
permission and approval from the appropriate federal land 
management agency that will typically use processes under the 
National Environmental Policy Act to assess whether the 
proposed vegetation management measures comply with federal 
environmental laws. Despite these electricity corridors being 
``less than a fraction of a percent'' of overall federal lands, 
the consequences of not effectively managing the electricity 
ROW can be significant and catastrophic if fire spreads to the 
surrounding lands.\7\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \7\Testimony of Mr. Michael Neal, Manager of Forestry and Special 
Programs for Arizona Public Service, House Committee on Natural 
Resources, Oversight Hearing on ``Keeping the Lights On and Reducing 
Catastrophic Forest Fire Risk: Proper Management of Electricity Rights 
of Way on Federal Lands,'' May 7, 2014, p. 2.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    When a ROW is not properly maintained, a tree can grow into 
or fall on to a power line, causing fires and a domino effect 
of electricity blackouts. For example, on August 10, 1996, 
three power lines in the Pacific Northwest sagged onto 
untrimmed trees, causing a massive electricity blackout that 
impacted 7.5 million people across 14 western states, two 
Canadian provinces and part of Mexico.\8\ An August 14, 2003, 
blackout, caused in part by unmanaged trees and sagging 
transmission lines, led to an outage for 50 million electricity 
customers in North America.\9\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \8\The U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force, ``August 14th 
Blackout: Causes and Recommendations,'' (April 2004). Available at: 
http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/oeprod/DocumentsandMedia/
BlackoutFinal-Web.pdf.
    \9\Devon Peacock, ``2003 Blackout: 10 Years Later,'' CFPL AM, Aug. 
14, 2013, available at: http://www.am980.ca/2013/08/14/blackout-10-
years/.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    As a result of the 2003 blackout and ongoing reliability 
concerns, what was then the North American Electric Reliability 
Council finalized vegetation management standards and 
guidelines for the electric industry in 2005.\10\ In the same 
year, Congress passed and the President signed the Energy 
Policy Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-190), which focused on 
creating nationwide mandatory electricity reliability standards 
to avoid widespread electricity blackouts.\11\ That law 
contains the following reliability provision in Section 1211:
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \10\Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FAC-003-2.
    \11\Public Law 109-190, 120 Stat. 298.

        Federal agencies responsible for approving access to 
        electric transmission or distribution facilities 
        located on lands within the United States shall, in 
        accordance with applicable law, expedite any Federal 
        agency approvals that are necessary to allow the owners 
        or operators of such facilities to comply with any 
        reliability standard, approved by the [Federal Energy 
        Regulatory] Commission under section 215 of the Federal 
        Power Act, that pertains to vegetation management, 
        electric service restoration, or resolution of 
        situations that imminently endanger the reliability or 
        safety of the facilities.\12\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \12\Id at Section 215.

    A decade since the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 
2005, properly maintaining an electricity ROW is still an 
important issue. For example, the Department of Energy's 2015 
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Quadrennial Energy Review stated:

        Reliability and resilience projects have also included 
        operations and maintenance activities, such as 
        aggressive vegetation management. While it might be 
        considered low-tech, vegetation management is an 
        essential activity; both the 1996 West Coast and 2003 
        East Coast-Midwest power outages started from trees 
        along transmission lines.\13\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \13\U.S. Department of Energy: 2015 Quadrennial Energy Review, Ch. 
2, p.15.

    Despite such attention, unmanaged vegetation continues to 
interact with power lines. Indeed, the Forest Service reported 
113 and 232 wildfires, respectively in 2013 and 2012, caused by 
contact between power lines and trees on its lands.\14\ Federal 
land agencies have been subject to criticism for not allowing 
utilities to carry out vegetation management policies on a 
consistent and timely basis. Specifically, some electricity 
providers and the International Brotherhood of Electrical 
Workers have voiced concerns that federal land managers carry 
out policies contradictory from one another, that there is no 
timely decision-making process for removing dangerous trees and 
that redundancy in reviews and work requirements add 
unnecessary delay. As an example, Mr. Bobby Bright, the former 
Chief Executive Officer of the San Miguel Power Association in 
southwestern Colorado, testified about his interaction with the 
Forest Service to the House Resources Committee in 2006:
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \14\Testimony of Mr. Jim Pena, Associate Deputy Chief of the 
National Forest System, U.S. Forest Service, House Committee on Natural 
Resources, Oversight Hearing on ``Keeping the Lights On and Reducing 
Catastrophic Forest Fire Risk: Proper Management of Electricity Rights 
of Way on Federal Lands,'' May 7, 2014, p. 2.

        There is little consistency from agency to agency, 
        district to district, or even within the same offices. 
        There seems to be no standard operating procedure . . . 
        We are not asking for a free pass to build whatever we 
        want wherever we want it. We are asking for a 
        streamlined process with consistent procedures and 
        requirements . . . It would also relieve some of the 
        staffing shortfalls that these agencies are 
        experiencing.\15\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \15\Testimony of Mr. Bobby Bright, CEO, San Miguel Power 
Association, House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on 
Water and Power, Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, Oversight 
Hearing on ``The Need for Proper Forest Management on Federal Rights of 
Way to Ensure Reliable Electricity Service'', May 3, 2006.

    Similarly, at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing 
in May 2014, Mr. Randall Miller of PacifiCorp testified about 
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
federal staffing inconsistencies:

        The inconsistent viewpoints of Federal land managers 
        create difficulties for utilities because local 
        authorities are empowered to make their own decisions 
        for what is or is not appropriate in their 
        jurisdictions. The arrangement creates unpredictable 
        directives regarding what is or what is not authorized 
        on utility corridors on Federal lands--in spite of land 
        managers ostensibly working with the same policies and 
        procedures.\16\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \16\Testimony of Mr. Randall Miller, Director of Vegetation 
Management, PacifiCorp, House Committee on Natural Resources, Oversight 
Hearing on ``Keeping the Lights On and Reducing Catastrophic Forest 
Fire Risk: Proper Management of Electricity Rights of Way on Federal 
Lands,'' May 7, 2014, p. 6.

The delay caused by these inconsistencies also poses 
significant financial issues for smaller utilities. Mr. Mark 
Hayden, the General Manager of Missoula Electric Cooperative, 
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
testified on this legislation:

        In some cases, it can take months or a year or more to 
        obtain approval on Major Operation and Maintenance 
        activities. Such approvals are necessary to assuring 
        electricity service is not jeopardized as a result of 
        work needed on rights-of-way. It is this inconsistency 
        and the unnecessary financial risk placed on my 
        cooperative and other cooperatives that cause me and 
        other co-op managers in the State of Montana 
        significant concern.\17\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \17\Testimony of Mr. Mark Hayden, General Manager, Missoula 
Electric Cooperative, House Committee on Natural Resources, Legislative 
Hearing on H.R. 2358, May 20, 2015, p. 2.

    H.R. 2358 attempts to provide consistency by requiring the 
Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture to allow 
electricity ROW holders on BLM and Forest Service lands the 
option of submitting utility vegetation management, facility 
inspection and operation and maintenance plans on such lands 
for approval and to develop a coordinated process for review 
and approval for such plans. The Committee heard testimony that 
some local Forest Service and BLM districts and regions are 
working well with utilities and that some plans already exist 
and have been approved by the agencies. The purpose of H.R. 
2358 is not to mandate that every utility submit such plans to 
the agencies as that could be very costly for the utilities and 
the agencies. Rather, one goal is to have the agencies jointly 
develop guidelines and consistency so that utilities have more 
predictability when and if they submit such plans.
    Electric utilities are focused not only on managing 
vegetation on a ROW, but are also concerned about adjacent 
high-risk and hazardous trees outside the ROW corridor. Many 
electric utilities remain threatened with liability for fires 
on federal lands caused by nearby trees outside the ROW that 
could fall on power lines.\18\ Despite being potentially liable 
for trees that are outside of the ROW but are on federal lands, 
utilities may encounter opposition and lengthy delay from some 
Forest Service and BLM personnel about removing the high-risk 
trees. As an example, Mr. Mike Easely, who represented a rural 
electric cooperative in Wyoming, testified on the following 
liability issue:
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \18\Testimony of Mr. Steven Eldrige, General Manager and CEO, 
Umatilla Electric Cooperative, House Committee on Natural Resources, 
Subcommittee on Water and Power, Subcommittee on Forests and Forest 
Health, Oversight Hearing on ``The Need for Proper Forest Management on 
Federal Rights of Way to Ensure Reliable Electricity Service,'' May 3, 
2006.

        Carbon Power and Light (Carbon) had been conducting 
        regular maintenance and clearing of rights of way 
        (ROW). Personnel noticed several trees outside of the 
        ROW (Forest Service trees) and noted if the trees fell, 
        they would fall into their power lines. The cooperative 
        took the initiative to contact officials in the 
        Medicine Bow National Forest to bring this problem to 
        their attention. Among other things they were told that 
        if a tree outside their ROW fell into the lines and 
        caused a fire, the cooperative would be held liable for 
        damages! It should be noted that most, if not all, of 
        the trees being cleared, or needing to be cleared, were 
        dead due to beetle kill and were not viable living 
        trees. Carbon had to jump through many bureaucratic 
        hoops, conducting one study after another that delayed 
        the clearing of ANY trees for over two years and at a 
        cost of over $1.6 million to their member-owners. 
        Because of the delays, the cooperative was not able to 
        clear all of the trees needed in one season. We were 
        all very fortunate that a forest fire was not ignited 
        by one of these dead trees falling into a wire.\19\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \19\Testimony of Mr. Mike Easely, CEO Powder River Energy 
Corporation, House Committee on Natural Resources Oversight Hearing on 
``Keeping the Lights On and Reducing Catastrophic Forest Fire Risk: 
Proper Management of Electricity Rights-of-Way on Federal Lands,'' May 
7, 2014, p. 1.

Trees have indeed fallen on power lines even after the Forest 
Service disapproved of pruning the trees and some utilities are 
left with the bill. As Mr. Dave Markham, President and CEO of 
the Central Electric Cooperative, Inc., testified on this 
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
legislation:

        Midstate Electric Cooperative in La Pine, Oregon, 
        requested the trimming of selective trees along the 
        rights-of-way on USFS land for fear the trees were a 
        hazard. This request was denied. Predictably, a tree 
        fell into a power line, sparking a wildfire. Because 
        the electric cooperative was held strictly liable, they 
        had to pay firefighting costs of $326,850. This 
        legislation's provision shifting the liability away 
        from the utility if the agency denies permission to 
        manage the vegetation is needed and long overdue.\20\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \20\Testimony of Mr. Dave Markham, President and CEO of the Central 
Electric Cooperative, House Committee on Natural Resources, Legislative 
Hearing on H.R. 2358, May 20, 2015, p. 2.

    H.R. 2358, as amended, addresses this issue to ensure that 
a utility is not liable if the federal government fails to 
allow the utility to manage vegetation on or adjacent to the 
ROW. As analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office, this 
provision will have a ``negligible impact'' on federal costs 
because ``it is unlikely that an agency would deny a request to 
clear vegetation that might subsequently result in a wildfire'' 
under the bill.\21\ However, a utility could still be liable if 
its lines or facilities spark a fire not related to the federal 
government's decision or indecision on vegetation management.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \21\ Congressional Budget Office, ``H.R. 2358, Electricity 
Reliability and Forest Protection Act,'' Sept. 15, 2015, available at: 
https://www.cbo.gov/publication/50822, p. 2.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Many of those impacted directly by the current federal 
policies and who work in ROW on federal lands on a daily basis 
support this bill. The International Brotherhood of Electrical 
Workers, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, 
the Edison Electric Institute, the American Public Power 
Association, the Large Public Power Association, the Northwest 
Public Power Association, the Southern California Public Power 
Association, and the Colorado River Energy Distributors 
Association are just a few of the organizations representing 
utilities and their employees who experience the need for this 
bill and support its passage.

                      Section-by-Section Analysis


Section 1. Short title

    This section states the title of the bill as the 
``Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act''.

Section 2. Vegetation management, facility inspection, and operation 
        and maintenance on Federal lands containing electric 
        transmission and distribution facilities

    Section 2 adds a new section (Section 512) to the Federal 
Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA, 43 U.S.C. 1761 
et seq.). The following describes the new text to be added to 
this law.
    New FLPMA Section 512(a) requires the Secretary of the 
Interior and Secretary of Agriculture to ensure that existing 
and future ROW include provisions for vegetation management, 
facility inspection, and operation and maintenance activities. 
These provisions shall be developed in consultation with 
rights-of-way holders and allow an owner or operator to 
maintain facilities to comply with Federal, State, and local 
electric system reliability and fire safety standards, 
including those established by the North American Electric 
Reliability Corporation and reliability plans for meeting those 
standards.
    The Secretaries shall minimize the need for case-by-case or 
annual approvals for routine vegetation management, facility 
inspection, and operation and maintenance activities within 
existing electrical rights-of-way and utility vegetation 
management activities that are necessary to control hazard 
trees within or adjacent to electrical rights-of-way on Federal 
land. The subsection stipulates that when such review is 
required, the Secretaries shall provide for expedited review 
and approval of utility vegetation management, facility 
inspection, and operation and maintenance activities, 
especially activities requiring prompt action to avoid an 
adverse impact on human safety or electric reliability to avoid 
fire hazards.
    Subsection (b) requires the Secretaries to allow 
electricity rights-of-way owners and operators the option to 
develop and submit vegetation management, facility inspection 
and operation and maintenance plans for the appropriate 
Secretary's approval, and to develop a coordinated process for 
review and approval for such plans. This subsection also 
requires these plans to enable the owners and operators to 
comply with Federal, State, and local electrical system 
reliability and fire safety standards, and prohibits the 
Secretaries from changing such standards. The Committee 
understands that such plans are currently being implemented in 
some circumstances; however, given repeated witness testimony 
that federal agencies have been inconsistent and not timely in 
approving such plans, this subsection is intended to require 
the agencies to coordinate and streamline their activities on 
these matters.
    As such, this subsection requires the Secretaries to 
develop a joint consolidated and coordinated process for review 
and approval of the plans. This process shall assure prompt 
review and approval within 90 days, include timelines and 
benchmarks for approval of such plans, be consistent with 
applicable law, minimize the costs of the reviewing agency and 
the entity submitting the plans and allow the agencies to 
consider plan amendments in a prompt manner if changed 
conditions necessitate a modification to a plan. The 
subsection, as amended, further stipulates that the process 
shall include notification by the agency of any changed 
conditions that warrant a modification to a plan, provide an 
opportunity for the owner or operator to submit a proposed plan 
amendment to address directly the changed condition and allow 
the owner or operator to continue to implement those elements 
of the approved plan that do not directly and adversely affect 
the condition precipitating the need for modification. 
Subsection (b) also requires the Secretaries to apply the 
existing categorical exclusion process under the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) to 
plans developed under the authority of this bill. If a plan is 
proposed for an existing transmission and distribution facility 
concurrent with the siting of a new transmission or 
distribution facility, necessary reviews shall be completed as 
part of the siting process or sooner. Once the plan is 
approved, the owner or operator shall provide the agency with 
only a notification of activities anticipated to be undertaken 
in the coming year, a description of those activities, and 
certification that the activities are in accordance with the 
plan.
    Subsection (b) also defines the terms ``vegetation 
management, facility inspection, and operation and maintenance 
plan'' and ``owner or operator''. As amended, it defines 
``hazard tree'' as ``any tree inside the right-of-way or 
located outside the right-of-way that has been found . . . to 
be likely to fail and cause a high risk of injury, damage, or 
disruption within 10 feet or less of an electric power line or 
related structure if it fell.'' The Committee included this 
definition at markup to reflect the generally accepted industry 
standards for tree care practices. Termed the American National 
Standards Institute A300 standards, these consensus-based 
objectives are based on current research and sound practices 
for writing specifications to manage trees, shrubs, and other 
woody plants.
    Under subsection (c), if a hazard tree on BLM or Forest 
Service lands has made contact with or is in imminent danger of 
making contact with a transmission or distribution electricity 
line, the owner or operator of that line may prune or remove 
the vegetation to avoid the disruption of electric service and 
risk of fire and shall notify the appropriate local agent of 
the relevant Secretary not later than 24 hours after such 
removal. This provision is intended to codify ongoing federal 
arrangements, which allow utility owners and operators to 
respond to emergency circumstances without prior approval from 
the land management agency.
    Subsection (d) allows the owner or operator to conduct 
vegetation management activities three days after a request has 
been made to the appropriate Secretary if vegetation within or 
adjacent to the right-of-way does not meet North American 
Electric Reliability Corporation clearance requirements or 
those established by State and local authorities. The owner or 
operator may then, after notifying the appropriate Secretary, 
conduct management activities to meet those requirements.
    Subsection (e) requires the Secretaries to report requests 
and actions made under subsections (c) and (d) annually on 
their respective websites.
    Subsection (f), as amended, limits the owner or operator's 
liability in the event that it is not allowed to trim hazard 
trees in imminent danger of contacting electricity lines on BLM 
and Forest Service lands. Specifically, if the appropriate 
Secretary fails to allow an owner or operator to manage 
vegetation on Federal lands within or adjacent to a right-of-
way consistent with an approved vegetation management plan, or 
if the owner or operator is prevented by one of the Secretaries 
from responding to an identified hazard tree or a tree in 
imminent danger of contacting an electricity line, the owner or 
operator shall not be liable for wildfire damage and loss or 
injury resulting from such contact. The Committee believes that 
it is unjust to hold utility owners and operators liable for 
damages caused by the inaction or delay of the federal agency. 
The purpose of this section is to release electric utility 
owners and operators from liability only in specific 
circumstances where the federal government prevents the utility 
from conducting necessary and appropriate vegetation 
management. This section is not intended, however, to release a 
utility from liability if in the process of conducting 
vegetation management activities the utility or its agents act 
in a manner inconsistent with the standard of care required for 
conducting such an activity.
    Subsection (g) encourages the Secretaries to develop a 
training program for personnel of the Interior Department and 
the Forest Service involved in vegetation management decisions 
relating to transmission and distribution facilities on Federal 
lands. Such a program should ensure that personnel understand 
electric system reliability and fire safety requirements, and 
how to assist owners and operators to comply with those 
standards. As amended, the training program required by this 
subsection will also encourage willing owners and operators of 
electricity transmission and distribution lines to incorporate, 
on a voluntary basis, practices which would enhance habitat and 
forage for pollinators and other wildlife.
    Subsection (h) requires the Secretaries to prescribe 
regulations or amend existing regulations to implement the 
authorities created by this bill. Such regulations must be 
final no later than two years after the section's enactment. 
The Committee understands that much of this regulatory 
framework is currently in place; however, it is carried out on 
an inconsistent basis. Thus, the Committee does not expect the 
Secretaries to expend unreasonable time and funding to provide 
consistent regulatory approaches.
    Subsection (i) ensures that nothing in the section requires 
an owner or operator to develop and submit a new plan if one 
already has been approved by the appropriate Secretary before 
the date of enactment of this section. Subsection (i) also 
makes a clerical amendment to the FLPMA table of contents.

                            Committee Action

    H.R. 2358 was introduced on May 15, 2015, by Congressman 
Ryan K. Zinke (R-MT). The bill was referred to the Committee on 
Natural Resources, and in addition to the Committee on 
Agriculture. With the Natural Resources Committee, the bill was 
referred to the Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans and the 
Subcommittee on Federal Lands. On June 10, 2015, the Natural 
Resources Committee met to consider the bill. The Subcommittees 
were discharged by unanimous consent. Congressman Zinke offered 
an amendment designated #1. Congressman Jared Huffman (D-CA) 
offered an amendment designated 057 to the Zinke amendment. It 
was not adopted by voice vote. The Zinke amendment was then 
adopted by voice vote. Congressman Jeff Denham (R-CA) offered 
an amendment designated #1; it was adopted by voice vote. The 
bill, as amended, was ordered favorably reported to the House 
of Representatives on June 11, 2015, by a bipartisan roll call 
vote of 22 to 15, as follows:


            Committee Oversight Findings and Recommendations

    Regarding clause 2(b)(1) of rule X and clause 3(c)(1) of 
rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, the 
Committee on Natural Resources' oversight findings and 
recommendations are reflected in the body of this report.

                    Compliance With House Rule XIII

    1. Cost of Legislation. Clause 3(d)(1) of rule XIII of the 
Rules of the House of Representatives requires an estimate and 
a comparison by the Committee of the costs which would be 
incurred in carrying out this bill. However, clause 3(d)(2)(B) 
of that rule provides that this requirement does not apply when 
the Committee has included in its report a timely submitted 
cost estimate of the bill prepared by the Director of the 
Congressional Budget Office under section 402 of the 
Congressional Budget Act of 1974. Under clause 3(c)(3) of rule 
XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives and section 
403 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the Committee has 
received the following cost estimate for this bill from the 
Director of the Congressional Budget Office:

H.R. 2358--Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act

    Summary: H.R. 2358 would allow electric utilities to submit 
to the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) 
long-term plans that would guide vegetation management and 
maintenance activities on or adjacent to rights-of-way 
containing electrical infrastructure on federal lands. Under 
the bill, the affected agencies would be required to review and 
respond to each plan within 90 days. The bill also could exempt 
electric utilities that have notified those agencies of 
vegetation that could come into contact with a transmission 
line from legal liability in the event of a subsequent 
wildfire.
    Based on information provided by the affected agencies and 
assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts, CBO estimates 
that implementing the bill would cost $12 million over the 
2016-2020 period. Because enacting H.R. 2358 would not affect 
direct spending or revenues, pay-as-you-go procedures do not 
apply.
    H.R. 2358 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) 
and would not affect the budgets of state, local, or tribal 
governments.
    Estimated Cost to the Federal Government: The estimated 
budgetary effect of H.R. 2358 is shown in the following table. 
The costs of this legislation fall within budget function 300 
(natural resources and environment).

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                               By fiscal year, in millions of dollars--
                                                    ------------------------------------------------------------
                                                       2016      2017      2018      2019      2020    2016-2020
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                  CHANGES IN SPENDING SUBJECT TO APPROPRIATION
 
Estimated Authorization Level......................         3         3         2         2         2         12
Estimated Outlays..................................         3         3         2         2         2         12
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Basis of estimate: For this estimate, CBO assumes that the 
legislation will be enacted near the end of calendar year 2015. 
Estimated outlays are based on historical spending patterns for 
similar activities.
    H.R. 2358 would require the Forest Service and BLM to 
review and respond within 90 days to plans submitted by 
electric utilities for conducting vegetation management and 
maintenance activities that could affect federal rights of way. 
Based on information provided by the Forest Service, BLM, and 
various electric utilities, CBO estimates that the additional 
staffing required to meet the deadline would cost about $2 
million annually over the 2016-2020 period.
    The bill also would require the affected agencies to draft 
new regulations and procedures related to the submission, 
review, and approval of vegetation management plans within two 
years. CBO estimates that the additional staffing required to 
carry out that provision would cost about $1 million per year 
in 2016 and 2017.
    Finally, the bill would exempt an electric utility from 
legal liability if the utility informs the agency administering 
a right-of-way that certain vegetation poses an imminent risk 
of fire, the agency does not allow the utility to conduct 
activities to eliminate that risk, and the vegetation is later 
determined to have caused a wildfire. Based on information 
provided by the affected agencies, CBO expects that it is 
unlikely that an agency would deny a request to clear 
vegetation that might subsequently result in a wildfire. Thus, 
we estimate that enacting this provision would have a 
negligible impact on the amount of funds the federal government 
would receive from damages resulting from a fire caused under 
those circumstances.
    Pay-As-You-Go considerations: None.
    Intergovernmental and private-sector impact: H.R. 2358 
contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as 
defined in UMRA and would not affect the budgets of state, 
local, or tribal governments.
    Estimate prepared by: Federal Costs: Ben Christopher and 
Jeff LaFave; Impact on State, Local, and Tribal Governments: 
Jon Sperl; Impact on the Private Sector: Amy Petz.
    Estimate approved by: H. Samuel Papenfuss, Deputy Assistant 
Director for Budget Analysis.
    2. Section 308(a) of Congressional Budget Act. As required 
by clause 3(c)(2) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives and section 308(a) of the Congressional Budget 
Act of 1974, this bill does not contain any new budget 
authority, spending authority, credit authority, or an increase 
or decrease in revenues or tax expenditures. The Congressional 
Budget Office estimates that implementing the bill would cost 
$12 million over the 2010-2020, subject to appropriation.
    3. General Performance Goals and Objectives. As required by 
clause 3(c)(4) of rule XIII, the general performance goal or 
objective of this bill is amend the Federal Land Policy and 
Management Act of 1976 to enhance the reliability of the 
electricity grid and reduce the threat of wildfires to and from 
electric transmission and distribution facilities on Federal 
lands by facilitating vegetation management on such lands.

                           Earmark Statement

    This bill does not contain any Congressional earmarks, 
limited tax benefits, or limited tariff benefits as defined 
under clause 9(e), 9(f), and 9(g) of rule XXI of the Rules of 
the House of Representatives.

                    Compliance With Public Law 104-4

    This bill contains no unfunded mandates.

                       Compliance With H. Res. 5

    Directed Rule Making. This bill directs the Secretary of 
the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to conduct one 
specific rule-making proceeding (or amend existing 
regulations).
    Duplication of Existing Programs. This bill does not 
establish or reauthorize a program of the federal government 
known to be duplicative of another program. Such program was 
not included in any report from the Government Accountability 
Office to Congress pursuant to section 21 of Public Law 111-139 
or identified in the most recent Catalog of Federal Domestic 
Assistance published pursuant to the Federal Program 
Information Act (Public Law 95-220, as amended by Public Law 
98-169) as relating to other programs.

                Preemption of State, Local or Tribal Law

    This bill is not intended to preempt any State, local or 
tribal law.

         Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported

  In compliance with clause 3(e) of rule XIII of the Rules of 
the House of Representatives, changes in existing law made by 
the bill, as reported, are shown as follows (new matter is 
printed in italic and existing law in which no change is 
proposed is shown in roman):

             FEDERAL LAND POLICY AND MANAGEMENT ACT OF 1976





           *       *       *       *       *       *       *
                            TABLE OF CONTENTS

     * * * * * * *

                         TITLE V--RIGHTS-OF-WAY

Sec. 501. Authorization to grant rights-of-way.
     * * * * * * *

Sec. 512. Vegetation management, facility inspection, and operation, and 
          maintenance relating to electric transmission and distribution 
          facility rights-of-way.

TITLE V--RIGHTS-OF-WAY

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


SEC. 512. VEGETATION MANAGEMENT, FACILITY INSPECTION, AND OPERATION, 
                    AND MAINTENANCE RELATING TO ELECTRIC TRANSMISSION 
                    AND DISTRIBUTION FACILITY RIGHTS-OF-WAY.

  (a) General Direction.--In order to enhance the reliability 
of the electricity grid and reduce the threat of wildfires to 
and from electric transmission and distribution rights-of-way 
and related facilities and adjacent property, the Secretary, 
with respect to public lands and other lands under the 
jurisdiction of the Secretary, and the Secretary of 
Agriculture, with respect to National Forest System lands, 
shall provide direction to ensure that all existing and future 
rights-of-way, however established (including by grant, special 
use authorization, and easement), for electrical transmission 
and distribution facilities on such lands include provisions 
for utility vegetation management, facility inspection, and 
operation and maintenance activities that, while consistent 
with applicable law--
          (1) are developed in consultation with the holder of 
        the right-of-way;
          (2) enable the owner or operator of a facility to 
        operate and maintain the facility in good working order 
        and to comply with Federal, State and local electric 
        system reliability and fire safety requirements, 
        including reliability standards established by the 
        North American Electric Reliability Corporation and 
        plans to meet such reliability standards;
          (3) minimize the need for case-by-case or annual 
        approvals for--
                  (A) routine vegetation management, facility 
                inspection, and operation and maintenance 
                activities within existing electrical 
                transmission and distribution rights-of-way; 
                and
                  (B) utility vegetation management activities 
                that are necessary to control hazard trees 
                within or adjacent to electrical transmission 
                and distribution rights-of-way; and
          (4) when review is required, provide for expedited 
        review and approval of utility vegetation management, 
        facility inspection, and operation and maintenance 
        activities, especially activities requiring prompt 
        action to avoid an adverse impact on human safety or 
        electric reliability to avoid fire hazards.
  (b) Vegetation Management, Facility Inspection, and Operation 
and Maintenance Plans.--
          (1) Development and submission.--Consistent with 
        subsection (a), the Secretary and the Secretary of 
        Agriculture shall provide owners and operators of 
        electric transmission and distribution facilities 
        located on lands described in such subsection with the 
        option to develop and submit a vegetation management, 
        facility inspection, and operation and maintenance 
        plan, that at each owner or operator's transmission 
        discretion may cover some or all of the owner or 
        operator's transmission and distribution rights-of-way 
        on Federal lands, for approval to the Secretary with 
        jurisdiction over the lands. A plan under this 
        paragraph shall enable the owner or operator of a 
        facility, at a minimum, to comply with applicable 
        Federal, State, and local electric system reliability 
        and fire safety requirements, as provided in subsection 
        (a)(2). The Secretaries shall not have the authority to 
        modify those requirements.
          (2) Review and approval process.--The Secretary and 
        the Secretary of Agriculture shall jointly develop a 
        consolidated and coordinated process for review and 
        approval of--
                  (A) vegetation management, facility 
                inspection, and operation and maintenance plans 
                submitted under paragraph (1) that--
                          (i) assures prompt review and 
                        approval not to exceed 90 days;
                          (ii) includes timelines and 
                        benchmarks for agency comments to 
                        submitted plans and final approval of 
                        such plans;
                          (iii) is consistent with applicable 
                        law; and
                          (iv) minimizes the costs of the 
                        process to the reviewing agency and the 
                        entity submitting the plans; and
                  (B) amendments to the plans in a prompt 
                manner if changed conditions necessitate a 
                modification to a plan.
          (3) Notification.--The review and approval process 
        under paragraph (2) shall--
                  (A) include notification by the agency of any 
                changed conditions that warrant a modification 
                to a plan;
                  (B) provide an opportunity for the owner or 
                operator to submit a proposed plan amendment to 
                address directly the changed condition; and
                  (C) allow the owner or operator to continue 
                to implement those elements of the approved 
                plan that do not directly and adversely affect 
                the condition precipitating the need for 
                modification.
          (4) Categorical exclusion process.--The Secretary and 
        the Secretary of Agriculture shall apply his or her 
        categorical exclusion process under the National 
        Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et 
        seq.) to plans developed under this subsection on 
        existing transmission and distribution rights-of-way 
        under this subsection.
          (5) Implementation.--A plan approved under this 
        subsection shall become part of the authorization 
        governing the covered right-of-way and hazard trees 
        adjacent to the right-of-way. If a vegetation 
        management plan is proposed for an existing 
        transmission and distribution facility concurrent with 
        the siting of a new transmission or distribution 
        facility, necessary reviews shall be completed as part 
        of the siting process or sooner. Once the plan is 
        approved, the owner or operator shall provide the 
        agency with only a notification of activities 
        anticipated to be undertaken in the coming year, a 
        description of those activities, and certification that 
        the activities are in accordance with the plan.
          (6) Definitions.--In this subsection:
                  (A) Vegetation management, facility 
                inspection, and operation and maintenance 
                plan.--The term ``vegetation management, 
                facility inspection, and operation and 
                maintenance plan'' means a plan that--
                          (i) is prepared by the owner or 
                        operator of one or more electrical 
                        transmission or distribution facilities 
                        to cover one or more electric 
                        transmission and distribution rights-
                        of-way; and
                          (ii) provides for the long-term, 
                        cost-effective, efficient and timely 
                        management of facilities and vegetation 
                        within the width of the right-of-way 
                        and adjacent Federal lands to enhance 
                        electricity reliability, promote public 
                        safety, and avoid fire hazards.
                  (B) Owner or operator.--The terms ``owner'' 
                and ``operator'' include contractors or other 
                agents engaged by the owner or operator of a 
                facility.
                  (C) Hazard tree.--The term ``hazard tree'' 
                means any tree inside the right-of-way or 
                located outside the right-of-way that has been 
                found by the either the owner or operator of a 
                transmission or distribution facility, or the 
                Secretary or the Secretary of Agriculture, to 
                be likely to fail and cause a high risk of 
                injury, damage, or disruption within 10 feet or 
                less of an electric power line or related 
                structure if it fell.
  (c) Response to Emergency Conditions.--If vegetation on 
Federal lands within, or hazard trees on Federal lands adjacent 
to, an electrical transmission or distribution right-of-way 
granted by the Secretary or the Secretary of Agriculture has 
contacted or is in imminent danger of contacting one or more 
electric transmission or distribution lines, the owner or 
operator of the transmission or distribution lines--
          (1) may prune or remove the vegetation to avoid the 
        disruption of electric service and risk of fire; and
          (2) shall notify the appropriate local agent of the 
        relevant Secretary not later than 24 hours after such 
        removal.
  (d) Compliance With Applicable Reliability and Safety 
Standards.--If vegetation on Federal lands within or adjacent 
to an electrical transmission or distribution right-of-way 
under the jurisdiction of each Secretary does not meet 
clearance requirements under standards established by the North 
American Electric Reliability Corporation, or by State and 
local authorities, and the Secretary having jurisdiction over 
the lands has failed to act to allow a transmission or 
distribution facility owner or operator to conduct vegetation 
management activities within 3 business days after receiving a 
request to allow such activities, the owner or operator may, 
after notifying the Secretary, conduct such vegetation 
management activities to meet those clearance requirements.
  (e) Reporting Requirement.--The Secretary or Secretary of 
Agriculture shall report requests and actions made under 
subsections (c) and (d) annually on each Secretary's website.
  (f) Liability.--An owner or operator of a transmission or 
distribution facility shall not be held liable for wildfire 
damage, loss or injury, including the cost of fire suppression, 
if--
          (1) the Secretary or the Secretary of Agriculture 
        fails to allow the owner or operator to operate 
        consistently with an approved vegetation management, 
        facility inspection, and operation and maintenance plan 
        on Federal lands under the relevant Secretary's 
        jurisdiction within or adjacent to a right-of-way to 
        comply with Federal, State or local electric system 
        reliability and fire safety standards, including 
        standards established by the North American Electric 
        Reliability Corporation; or
          (2) the Secretary or the Secretary of Agriculture 
        fails to allow the owner or operator of the 
        transmission or distribution facility to perform 
        appropriate vegetation management activities in 
        response to an identified hazard tree as defined under 
        subsection (b)(6), or a tree in imminent danger of 
        contacting the owner's or operator's transmission or 
        distribution facility.
  (g) Training and Guidance.--In consultation with the electric 
utility industry, the Secretary and the Secretary of 
Agriculture are encouraged to develop a program to train 
personnel of the Department of the Interior and the Forest 
Service involved in vegetation management decisions relating to 
transmission and distribution facilities to ensure that such 
personnel--
          (1) understand electric system reliability and fire 
        safety requirements, including reliability standards 
        established by the North American Electric Reliability 
        Corporation;
          (2) assist owners and operators of transmission and 
        distribution facilities to comply with applicable 
        electric reliability and fire safety requirements; and
          (3) encourage and assist willing owners and operators 
        of transmission and distribution facilities to 
        incorporate on a voluntary basis vegetation management 
        practices to enhance habitats and forage for 
        pollinators and for other wildlife so long as the 
        practices are compatible with the integrated vegetation 
        management practices necessary for reliability and 
        safety.
  (h) Implementation.--The Secretary of the Interior and the 
Secretary of Agriculture shall--
          (1) not later than one year after the date of the 
        enactment of this section, prescribe regulations, or 
        amend existing regulations, to implement this section; 
        and
          (2) not later than two years after the date of the 
        enactment of this section, finalize regulations, or 
        amend existing regulations, to implement this section.
  (i) Existing Vegetation Management, Facility Inspection and 
Operation and Maintenance Plans.--Nothing in this section 
requires an owner or operator to develop and submit a 
vegetation management, facility inspection, and operation and 
maintenance plan if one has already been approved by the 
Secretary or Secretary of Agriculture before the date of the 
enactment of this section.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *




                            DISSENTING VIEWS

    The idea behind H.R. 2358 makes sense: improve coordination 
between federal land management agencies and utility companies 
that hold transmission rights-of-way (ROW) on U.S. public 
lands. Doing this would help utilities prevent fires sparked by 
trees contacting their power lines, and eliminate the need for 
last-minute work resulting from deferred maintenance. In turn, 
it would help the Forest Service (FS) and the Bureau of Land 
Management (BLM) respond more quickly and consistently for 
requests to access and maintain ROWs on public lands, while at 
the same time protecting public natural resources from damage.
    Even when accounting for an amendment by the bill's sponsor 
which was adopted at markup, the proposed execution in this 
bill would do little to solve the problem of poor coordination. 
Instead of making up-front planning for ROW maintenance a 
requirement for utilities, H.R. 2358 makes such planning 
optional, just as it is now. Further, the bill allows states 
and localities to dictate how U.S. public lands are managed and 
shifts liability for wildfire damage from utility companies to 
the taxpayers. At a hearing on the bill last month, FS and BLM 
expressed concerns over these provisions.
    Democratic Members offered an amendment at markup which 
would have addressed some of these concerns while still giving 
ROW holders the certainty they had requested, but Republicans 
rejected the amendment. We hope that the Majority will accept 
our offer to negotiate the language of this bill before taking 
it to the floor, but until that time we cannot support its 
passage.

                                   Raul Grijalva,
                                           Ranking Member, Committee on 
                                               Natural Resources.
                                   Niki Tsongas,
                                           Ranking Member, Subcommittee 
                                               on Federal Lands.
                                   Jared Huffman,
                                           Ranking Member, Subcommittee 
                                               on Water, Power and 
                                               Oceans.
                                   Grace Napolitano.
                                   Matt Cartwright.
                                   Debbie Dingell.
                                   Alan Lowenthal.
                                   Ruben Gallego.

                                  [all]