Bay Area Reps In Congress Push To Tackle Wildfire Smoke Dangers

KCBS Radio Afternoon News
October 31, 2019 - 4:01 pm
The Maria Fire burns on a hillside as it expands up to 8,000 acres on its first night on November 1, 2019 near Somis, California.

David McNew/Getty Images

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Two Bay Area representatives in Congress have introduced legislation to help state and local governments protect communities from the risks of wildfire smoke.

Rep.Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Napa) unveiled the Smoke Planning and Research Act, which would establish four “centers of excellence” at colleges and universities to research the consequences of wildfire smoking spreading across the skies and making its way into people’s lungs.

The act would also direct the Environmental Protection Agency to provide grants to states, tribes and local governments to plan and respond to wildfire smoke.

Under the act, the Environmental Protection Agency would provide grant money for improving wildfire planning and response to government entities on the state, tribal and local levels.

Eshoo said that she’s confident that the legislation will get bipartisan support.

“The Bay Area has above average rates of asthma and people with asthma face higher risks from wildfire smoke. So, we have identical legislation in the Senate, so I think we have a very good chance of moving this legislation along,” said Eshoo.

Under the act, Eshoo also said that air quality regulators like the Bay Area Air Quality Management District would have access to funding that can be used to improve air quality in public buildings, like retrofitting schools with air filters.

“We know that, when it comes to cigarettes, that smoking is a public health threat. Well, breathing in this smoke also has impacts on people’s health. So, I think we are doing something that makes sense and will be helpful,” said Eshoo.

Both congressional representatives cited the impacts made on air quality in California due to smoke from the frequent wildfires that have struck in California over the past five years.