Lawmakers aim to incentivize weatherizing power lines
A new Senate bill aims to incentivize companies to weatherize the power grid and prevent power lines from starting wildfires.
The legislation, introduced Thursday by Democratic Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, would create an annual $10 billion matching grant program for companies that want to reduce the risk of their power lines from causing wildfires or seek to make the grid more resilient to natural disasters.
“No American should have to worry about their life being at risk because they’ve been stranded for days or weeks on end without electricity, or because their community is on the verge of being enveloped in a catastrophic wildfire started by a power line spark,” Merkley said in a statement.
“Especially as summer droughts and intense winter storms become more common, now is the time to invest in our power grids and reduce the chance of outages or sparks,” he added.
Activities that could be funded under the bill include installing underground new and existing power lines, creating weather-monitoring stations and hardening facilities against seismic events.
The grants would be matching, meaning that companies need to invest an equal amount, except for small utilities, which would have to match one-third of the grant.
The effort comes after winter storms last month battered various parts of the country, most notably Texas, where millions were left without power and several people died.
Last year, the Western part of the U.S. faced record-setting wildfires that burned for weeks and claimed dozens of lives.
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