Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Date: Jan. 23, 2023
Location: Washington, DC


Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Madam President, I rise to speak in support of the Community Wildfire Protection Act, bipartisan legislation that Senator Daines and I are reintroducing today.

This bill would ensure that those communities that are deemed to be under the greatest threat from wildfire are eligible to receive existing Federal wildfire grants. This sounds obvious but unfortunately is not the case under current law.

The current definition of an ``at-risk community'' was codified in the 2003 Healthy Forest Restoration Act. That law requires that, in addition to experiencing significant wildfire risk, an eligible community must either be adjacent to Federal land or included on a list generated in 2001 consisting of voluntary input from States and Tribes.

Unfortunately, this 2001 list is far from objective or comprehensive. Communities on the list were not added based on an objective evaluation of their wildfire risk or threat to life and property, only whether an individual Governor or Tribal leader decided to add them. To make matters worse, there are obvious omissions from the list that show its inadequacy, and in fact, 19 States and territories never submitted a single community.

For example, large California cities such as Fresno, Fairfield, and Napa are not encompassed by this definition, all of which have experienced recent major wildfires. The list also omits Grizzly Flats, CA, which was devastated by the 2021 Caldor Fire, despite its proximity to Federal lands, as well as countless other small towns at great risk of wildfire.

These small, rural towns are frequently at the highest risk of wildfire and lack the resources to undertake wildfire resiliency projects on their own. Obviously, these are some of the towns that would most benefit from addition Federal help but because of the outdated definition, may not be eligible.

Aligning the definition in law for at-risk communities to today's environmental realities is more important than ever given the increased spread, frequency, and destructiveness of wildfires, especially in the West.

Our bill would simply end the practice of making Federal grants contingent on this outdated, incomplete list or proximity to Federal lands. Instead, our legislation would allow communities to be eligible based on the most up-to-date quantitative wildfire risk data for the entire United States--data already maintained by the U.S. Forest Service.

The 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provided $1 billion for community wildfire resilience grants, and last year's Inflation Reduction Act included an historic $1.8 billion for wildfire resilience on federal forestlands. Congress has done the work of providing funding for wildfire resilience. Now it must ensure that these projects can be targeted where they are most necessary and completed with the swiftness that the wildfire crisis demands.

I am pleased to work with Senator Daines on this commonsense bill that will save lives, save communities, and ensure that Federal dollars are spent as effectively as possible. This change would help more communities in our home States of California and Montana and others throughout the West access Federal grants to reduce hazardous fuels around their communities and utilize authorities to complete them in a timely fashion, thereby reducing the threat posed by wildfire.

I am proud that our bill has received the support of the National Association of Counties, Rural County Representatives of California, the National Association of State Foresters, the Pacific Forest Trust, and the California Fire Safe Council.

Our bill is simple, but it would correct a glaring oversight in current law and ensure that billions of dollars in wildfire resiliency funding are applied where they are most needed. I urge my colleagues to cosponsor this legislation. ______

By Mrs. FEINSTEIN (for herself, Mr. Padilla, Mr. Wyden, Mr. Merkley, Mrs. Murray, Ms. Cantwell, Mr. Menendez, Mr. Booker, Mr. Markey, and Mr. Sanders):

S. 22. A bill to amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to permanently prohibit the conduct of offshore drilling on the outer Continental Shelf off the coast of California, Oregon, and Washington; to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.


Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Madam President, I rise today to introduce the West Coast Ocean Protection Act, legislation that would prohibit new oil or natural gas leases in federal waters off the coast of California, Oregon, and Washington.

I am pleased to be joined today by Senators Padilla, Wyden, Merkley, Murray, Cantwell, Menendez, Booker, Markey, and Sanders in introducing this bill, which is critically important to protecting the west coast from additional oil spills.

Californians know all too well the devastating effects of oil spills. In 1969, a well blowout on an offshore rig spilled an estimated 3 million gallons of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Santa Barbara. At the time, it was the worst oil spill in U.S. history and was catastrophic to the local environment and marine life, closing beaches, harming the economy, and killing thousands of birds, fish, and marine mammals.

After the Santa Barbara disaster, California had enough. The State blocked all new offshore drilling in state waters and in 1994 enacted a permanent offshore drilling ban. Through local ordinances, congressional opposition, and Presidential moratoria, no new drilling in Federal waters off California has been allowed since 1984.

Unfortunately, Californians are still confronting the impacts from ongoing offshore drilling operations. In October 2021, a ruptured pipeline spilled more than 25,000 gallons of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean and onto the beaches of Orange County. Despite numerous alarms, operators allowed oil to flow from the leak for over 14 hours. It was absolutely devastating.

The spill covered more than 8,000 acres of the ocean's surface and required more than a week of cleanup. In that time, local businesses suffered, fisheries shuttered, and crews worked to remove harmful oil and tar balls from sensitive wildlife habitat.

Despite the harm caused to individuals and businesses in the community, the operator has been given permission to repair the pipeline and begin drilling again, exposing the California coastline to the risk of yet another accident.

California's coastal and ocean economies are engines of growth that support millions of jobs and generate significant economic activity for the State and Nation. Because of the unique nature of the west coast ocean shelf, any new potential drilling would occur near the coastline and directly threaten the environment and robust economy.

Beyond that, we are currently in the midst of a historic offshore energy transition. This past December, a successful auction was held for five offshore wind energy areas off the California coast, paving the way for a new floating wind industry. At the same time, the Federal Government has begun a programmatic review of decommissioning oil and gas platforms in the Pacific to prepare for their eventual removal. The era of offshore oil and gas production in the Pacific is coming to a close, and it is long overdue.

It is time to respect the view of California and our fellow west coast States by passing the West Coast Ocean Protection Act permanently ban offshore drilling and protect the Pacific coast for generations to come. ______

By Mrs. FEINSTEIN (for herself, Mr. Padilla, Ms. Klobuchar, and Mrs. Shaheen):

S. 24. A bill to fight homelessness in the United States by authorizing a grant program within the Health Resources and Services Administration for housing programs that offer comprehensive services and intensive case management for homeless individuals and families; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.


Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Madam President, I rise today to introduce the Fighting Homelessness Through Services and Housing Act, which would establish a new Federal grant program to increase capacity for comprehensive supportive services paired with housing as a way to address our country's homelessness crisis.

As we have seen with the growing diversity of our homeless populations--individuals with mental health conditions or those struggling with addiction, people who simply could not keep up with increases in rent, families with children, and veterans--our Nation's homelessness crisis is not going away on its own without coordinated efforts at every level of government.

According to the data released in December from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, there are approximately 582,500 homeless individuals, including families with small children, in the United States. Nearly 30 percent of this population is in California, with approximately 172,000 homeless people sleeping on the streets on any given night.

In a nation as prosperous and wealthy as ours, we can and we must do better to address the issue of homelessness.

That is why I am introducing the Fighting Homelessness Through Services and Housing Act, which would authorize a new Federal funding stream of $1 billion per year, subject to annual appropriations. Grantees must serve individuals or families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless by providing housing paired with a comprehensive set of services and must provide a 25-percent match for any Federal funds received.

Because each individual and every community is unique, the grant program would be flexible in order to work in any region or for any homeless population.

This bill is based on a model that has proven to be effective and supports the great work already being done across the country, allowing local governmental entities and nonprofit organizations to expand their capacity and ensure a greater reach by putting Federal dollars where they will be most effective.

I am proud that this legislation is supported by a wide coalition of local governments, housing, health, and child welfare organizations, including the mayors and CEOs for U.S. Housing Investment, National League of Cities, National Alliance to End Homelessness, National Association of Counties, National Low Income Housing Coalition, and the National Housing Conference.

Supportive services such as mental and physical health care, substance abuse treatment, education and job training, and life skills such as financial literacy are critical components. Paired with intensive case management, supportive housing models make a difference.

We have seen the success of such partnerships in San Francisco, where the GLIDE Foundation provides critical services that meet an individual's basic needs, including meals, crisis intervention and prevention, childcare and educational programming, legal advice, and housing.

This would not be possible without the organization's partnerships with the city of San Francisco, particularly the San Francisco Department of Public Health, and other critical stakeholders. I highly encourage my colleagues to examine this exemplary homeless services model to see firsthand how effective partnerships can help to combat homelessness.

It is imperative that we support these types of partnerships, as well as nonprofit service providers, as they work to get people into housing to both mitigate the spread of the coronavirus and address their long- term needs.

I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting the bill and moving it through the Senate, especially as we continue to contend with the increase in homelessness.