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House Passes Porter Proposals to Keep Families Safe from Worsening Wildfires, Droughts

Congresswoman’s legislation would boost pay for federal firefighters, provide communities with sustainable clean water, and standardize research on natural disasters

WASHINGTON—The House of Representatives today passed multiple proposals from Congresswoman Katie Porter (D-CA) that would better protect Orange County families from natural disasters. The Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act, which was approved 218 to 199, includes bills previously introduced by Porter to bolster federal firefighter pay and benefits, extend a key federal program for water conservation efforts, and streamline natural disaster research.

“California is experiencing record-breaking wildfires at the same time our state suffers its most severe drought in 1,200 years,” said Porter, Chair of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. “We need to do more to keep families safe, especially as the climate crisis continues to make natural disasters worse. I’m proud my House colleagues approved several of my proposals to better protect Americans from intensifying wildfires, droughts, and other disasters.”

The Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act includes provisions from bipartisan legislation led by Porter, Congressman Joe Neguse (D-CO), and Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-WY) that would provide competitive pay and mental health leave to federal firefighters. Harsh conditions, few benefits, and low pay have contributed to a historic staffing shortage of federal firefighters, including in California, which is leaving communities vulnerable to worsening wildfires. 

Porter’s proposal to extend a federal program that helps state and local partners evaluate water levels was also included in the Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act. The Bureau of Reclamation’s Basin Study program develops applied science tools, data, guidance, and site-specific pilots to evaluate water management strategies. The program has produced more than two dozen reports over the past decade, including several studies of basins essential to Orange County families’ clean water supply. Porter’s legislation was debated in the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife earlier this month.

The House also today approved Porter’s bipartisan bill to standardize research on natural disasters. The Natural Disaster Safety Board Act, which Porter introduced in October with Congresswoman Nancy Mace (R-SC) and Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA), would establish an independent, non-partisan body modeled after the National Transportation Safety Board to review underlying causes of natural disasters. The board would also make recommendations to all levels of government on how to keep Americans safe from disasters, including wildfires, droughts, earthquakes, and floods. 

Porter has made disaster safety a top priority throughout her time in Congress. She successfully amended the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 to require a report to Congress on the risks wildland fires pose to our infrastructure and national readiness. Knowing that Orange County is prone to earthquakes and wildfires, Porter has hosted town halls with seismologist Dr. Lucy Jones and representatives from the OC Fire Authority to discuss how Orange County families can stay safe. She’s also repeatedly urged her colleagues to better protect Americans from worsening natural disasters by taking bold action against the climate crisis.