Senator Merkley introduces bills to address wildfire smoke impacts

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SALEM, Ore. – A U.S. Senator from Oregon is introducing a number of bills to tackle the effects of smoke from wildfires.

Senator Jeff Merkley introduced several pieces of legislation aimed at mitigating the impacts of wildfires in Oregon and across the nation. “In the summer of 2018,” Merkley’s office wrote, “Portland, Ore. Had the second-worst air quality globally and a single day of smoke exposure in San Francisco was equivalent to smoking half a pack of cigarettes.”

According to Merkley, the impacts of wildfires are only expected to get worse, and farm workers can bear the brunt of smoky skies as they’re often called upon to work quickly to harvest crops quickly during wildfire season. As a result, Merkley is introducing the Farmworker Smoke Protection Act, which would require employers to provide N95 masks or other certified breathing protection to farmworkers during days with poor air quality.

Merkley is also putting efforts into passing the Wildfire Smoke Emergency Declaration Act. This legislation would allow the President of the United States to declare a “smoke emergency,” freeing up federal agencies to help local communities when smoke creates hazardous conditions. It also authorizes funds to help cover lost business revenue.

Another piece of legislation—the Smoke Planning and Research Act—would provide federal funds to help communities develop and implement plans to mitigate smoke impacts.

Finally, the Smoke-Ready Communities Act would help provide money to build resilience to wildfire by creating grant programs for public buildings, schools, housing, and businesses.

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