Congressman Joe Neguse Introduces Bicameral Bill to Ensure More Disaster Resilient Power Grid
Washington, D.C. — Today, Congressman Joe Neguse and Congressman Kurt Schrader (OR-5) introduced legislation that would provide incentives to utility companies to do more to protect against power outages and wildfires as the climate emergency hits communities in Colorado and nationwide with extreme weather events. The Disaster Safe Power Grid Act would ensure that power companies do their part to reduce the risks of power blackouts and wildland fires through power system upgrades, fire and disaster safety equipment installation, and proper vegetation management. The bill is sponsored by Senator Ron Wyden and Senator Jeff Merkley in the Senate.
“Coloradans are no stranger to extreme weather, whether the devastating wildfires we experienced this year, intense flooding or heavy winter storms. In the last year alone, climate-related events have left residents of our state without power,” said Congressman Joe Neguse. “It’s time we make a significant investment in making our power grid more resilient to extreme weather events and that means partnering with utility companies to get the job done. The Disaster Safe Power Grid Act, bicameral legislation my office is introducing today, will ensure families in Northern Colorado are protected from power outages in the wake of climate-related weather incidents.”
“As the Western states prepare for the upcoming wildfire season, we need to do all that we can to support power companies as they work to make their grid infrastructure more secure and resilient,” Rep. Schrader said. “The Disaster Safe Power Grid Act would help electric utilities fund efforts to reduce the risks of blackouts caused by wildfires and extreme weather events like the dangerous ice storms that hit Oregon’s 5th Congressional District this year, through power system upgrades, as well as installing fire and disaster safety equipment and managing vegetation. This bill is especially crucial for smaller, rural electric co-ops who need this grant funding to meet the challenges of our changing climate and aging infrastructure. I am proud to lead the push with Congressman Neguse in the House to prioritize safety and help keep the lights on in our communities.”
Heavy snow in March of this year left nearly 25,000 Coloradans without power. 12,000 Coloradans lost power last June during a wild wind storm. Extreme heat and wildfires are also both threats to Colorado power, wildfires can burn power lines and cause outages, burned lines can also start fires when there are strong winds and dry conditions.
Through a matching grant program, the Disaster Safe Power Grid Act would incentivize utilities to do more to reduce natural disaster and wildfire risks while also bearing a substantial responsibility for the costs involved. By partnering with utilities around the country, the federal government can increase disaster and wildfire mitigation efforts at a modest cost to the public—a risk prevention and safety enhancement investment that will pay dividends.
“As a member-owned electric cooperative, we appreciate Congressman Neguse’s leadership to introduce the Disaster Safe Power Grid Act and strongly support the effort,” said Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association President and CEO Jeff Wadsworth.
“Last year, our system sustained significant damage from the largest wildfire in Colorado history causing extended power outages for some of our member-consumers. This type of targeted assistance will help ensure we are able to deliver on our mission of providing affordable and reliable electricity to our members even during times of disaster.”
“Wildfires ignited by electric power lines are a serious threat to our forests, watersheds, homes, and communities. This legislation will provide incentives to help power companies and utilities reduce these risks by upgrading their equipment and removing brush and vegetation from power line corridors. I appreciate Congressman Neguse’s continued leadership on wildfire mitigation through his support for this bill and others like it,” said Matt Jones, Chair of the Boulder County Board of Commissioners.
“The Disaster Safe Power Grid Act gives priority to smaller, rural electric companies. This is good for Grand County and rural Colorado!” said Grand County Commissioner Richard Cimino.
The Disaster Safe Power Grid Act:
- Establishes a $10 billion-per-year matching grant program for power companies through the Department of Energy to reduce the risk of disaster-caused outages or power lines causing wildfires.
- Gives special priority to smaller, rural electric companies.
- Promotes proven methods for hardening the power grid and reducing wildfire risks, including undergrounding of powerlines, installation of microgrids, and strengthening utility poles.
- Provides for hardening of overhead power lines and clearing of brush and other hazardous vegetation where undergrounding of power lines is not a favorable option.
- Requires power companies to have “skin in the game” by making the program a 1-to-1 matching grant, with an exception for smaller utilities where the matching requirement is one third of the grant.
- Delivers accountability on the part of utilities and the Department of Energy by generating a report every two years on efforts conducted under the grant program.
Read the bill text here.
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