Text: H.R.1873 — 115th Congress (2017-2018)All Information (Except Text)

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Referred in Senate (06/22/2017)

 
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[H.R. 1873 Referred in Senate (RFS)]

<DOC>
115th CONGRESS
  1st Session
                                H. R. 1873


_______________________________________________________________________


                   IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

                             June 22, 2017

   Received; read twice and referred to the Committee on Energy and 
                           Natural Resources

_______________________________________________________________________

                                 AN ACT


 
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.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in Congress assembled,

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 Electric Reliability Organization as defined 
        under 16 U.S.C. 824o(a) 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 transmission or distribution owner or 
        operator's 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 or 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 designated, prior to tree 
                failure, by 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 or hazard tree 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 Electric Reliability Organization as 
defined under 16 U.S.C. 824o(a), 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 Electric Reliability Organization 
        as defined under 16 U.S.C. 824o(a); 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 a 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 on rights-of-way 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 Electric Reliability Organization as defined 
        under 16 U.S.C. 824o(a);
            ``(2) assist owners and operators of transmission and 
        distribution facilities to comply with applicable electric 
        reliability and fire safety requirements;
            ``(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; and
            ``(4) understand how existing and emerging unmanned 
        technologies can help electric utilities, Federal, State, and 
        local governments, and private landowners to more efficiently 
        identify vegetation management needs, lower ratepayer energy 
        costs, and reduce the risk of wildfires.
    ``(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.''.

SEC. 3. NO LOSS OF FUNDS FOR WILD-FIRE SUPPRESSION.

    Nothing in this Act or the amendments made by this Act shall 
detract from the availability of funds or other resources for wild-fire 
suppression.

            Passed the House of Representatives June 21, 2017.

            Attest:

                                                 KAREN L. HAAS,

                                                                 Clerk.

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