U.S. CONGRESSIONAL News:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico’s Third District offered an amendment late last night to the Fiscal Year 2014 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act to increase funding for grant programs that help communities prepare for wildfires.
The amendment passed the House with broad bipartisan support by a 287 to 136 vote this morning. Below are Representative Luján’s remarks from last night. Click here<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=579fTTs_gLM&feature=youtu.be> to watch Luján’s speech.
“Madam Chair, in what has been one of the worst drought years in the recorded history of my home state of New Mexico, we are already feeling the effects of another severe fire season. Already, more than 18,000 acres of forest have burned as a result of two fires caused by downed power lines, and those numbers are growing as we speak. Hundreds of homes have been threatened and families have been evacuated. In 2011 during the Las Conchas fire, we lost 150,000 acres of forest to wildfire, again caused by a down power line.
“The importance of disaster preparedness is key to saving human lives and property. My amendment today would make available an additional $10 million for state and local grants programs to ensure local towns and communities can be prepared for catastrophic wildfires before they hit. This amendment is cost neutral. And while there may be concerns by some of my colleagues, and even opposition, I would ask, Madam Chair, that we work together to understand that when there are communities burning, that we reach out and try to do what we can to help these innocent individuals.
“My amendment would also allow local utilities to take preventative measures for the causes and impacts of wildfires. We must do all we can to ensure that communities have the resources they need to address the dangers and damages of wildfires before and after catastrophic events occur.
“I urge my colleagues to support my amendment.
“Madam Chair, before I yield back, I would like to take a moment to thank all of the firefighters for their brave service battling the Tres Lagunas fire and Thompson Ridge fire in northern New Mexico. Time and again, those on the front line as well as those on the command teams have acted admirably, putting their lives at risk. And to all those who have volunteered, donated resources, and lent a helping hand to the firefighters and our displaced friends and neighbors – God bless you and thank you for your hard work.
“Again, Madam Chair, I urge my colleagues to consider supporting my amendment that will help our communities prepare for wildfires. And with that I thank the Chairman and Ranking Member for their work in this important area.”