By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Legislation Would Classify Smoke Health Emergency
Congressman Josh Harder

Just introduced in Washington this week, Representative Josh Harder of California’s 9th District offered a new bill, the Wildfire Smoke Emergency Declaration Act of 2023, to allow the president to declare a “smoke emergency” when wildfire smoke creates hazardous air quality conditions.

An emergency declaration would authorize federal agencies to provide emergency assistance to states and local communities such as establishing smoke shelters, assisting with relocation efforts, and installing emergency smoke monitors. Each year, wildfire smoke contributes to billions of dollars in damages, lost revenue, and health complications across California. Senator Merkley of Oregon has introduced an identical bill in the Senate with bipartisan support.

“Unfortunately, we’re all familiar with the feeling of breathing wildfire smoke from the burning sensation in your lungs, the lightheadedness, and inability to catch your breath,” said Representative Harder. “It’s led to record rates of childhood asthma in our area and I refuse to let my daughter and her generation suffer from this smoke like I did growing up. So much quality of life has been lost … due to toxic wildfire smoke and it’s time we recognize it as the public health crisis it is.”

It’s estimated that poor air quality caused by wildfire smoke leads to over 9000 deaths a year and cuts life expectancy by over two years in smoke-heavy communities.

“The presence of extreme wildfire smoke is dangerous for public health, and as climate chaos continues to intensify these events, the lack of established federal processes, support, and resources leaves states and communities on their own to piece together a response,” said Senator Merkley, who leads this legislation in the Senate and has been the Senate leader in tackling the growing problem of wildfire smoke. “It is critical for the president to be able to declare a ‘smoke emergency’ when these conditions strike, and this bill serves as a solution to enable the president to declare such emergencies when wildfire smoke creates dangerous and damaging conditions.”

The Wildfire Smoke Emergency Declaration Act of 2023 would also authorize the Small Business Administration to provide financial relief to businesses affected by wildfire smoke to help cover lost revenue. It is estimated that workers lose an average of $125 billion a year because of wildfire smoke.