Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Reported to House amended, Part I (06/12/2017)

Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act

(Sec. 2) This bill requires the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture (USDA), with respect to lands under their respective jurisdictions, to ensure that all existing and future rights-of-way for electrical transmission and distribution facilities on such lands include requirements for utility vegetation management, facility inspection, and operation and maintenance activities that:

  • are developed in consultation with the holder of the right-of-way;
  • enable the owner or operator of a facility to operate and maintain it in good working order and comply with federal, state, and local electric system reliability and fire safety requirements; and
  • minimize the need for case-by-case or annual approvals, and instead provide for expedited review and approval, for routine vegetation management, facility inspection, and operation and maintenance activities within existing electrical transmission and distribution rights-of-way, as well as utility vegetation management activities necessary to control hazard trees within or adjacent to electrical transmission and distribution rights-of-way.

Interior and USDA shall give facility owners and operators the option to submit to the appropriate agency a vegetation management, facility inspection, and operation and maintenance plan. Interior and USDA shall develop jointly a consolidated and coordinated process for review and approval of these plans.

Interior and USDA shall apply its categorical exclusion process under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) to plans developed by this bill.

(A "categorical exclusion" under the NEPA is a category of actions which do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment and for which neither an Environmental Assessment nor an Environmental Impact Statement is required.)

If vegetation on federal lands within, or hazard trees on federal lands adjacent to, an electrical transmission or distribution right-of-way granted by Interior or USDA has contacted, or is in imminent danger of contacting, one or more electric transmission or distribution lines, the owner or operator:

  • may prune or remove the vegetation or hazard tree to avoid disruption of electric service and risk of fire, and
  • shall notify the local agent of the relevant agency within 24 hours after such removal.

The owner or operator of a transmission or distribution facility, after notifying Interior or USDA, as appropriate, may also conduct vegetation management activities on federal lands to meet clearance requirements under standards established by the Electric Reliability Organization or by state and local authorities.

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 Interior or USDA fails to allow it to:

  • operate consistently with an approved vegetation management, facility inspection, and operation and maintenance plan on federal lands within or adjacent to a right-of-way to comply with federal, state, or local electric system reliability and fire safety standards; or
  • perform vegetation management activities in response to a hazard tree or a tree in imminent danger of contacting the owner's or operator's transmission or distribution facility.

Interior and USDA may develop a program to train their personnel involved in vegetation management decisions on rights-of-way relating to transmission and distribution facilities.

Interior and USDA shall prescribe regulations, or amend existing regulations, to implement this bill.

An owner or operator does not have to develop and submit a vegetation management, facility inspection, and operation and maintenance plan if one has already been approved by Interior or USDA before the enactment of this bill.