Biden admin sounds off on coal mining, wildfire bills

By Marc Heller, Hannah Northey | 06/13/2024 06:49 AM EDT

Officials clashed with Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines on legislation to protect coal mining in his state.

Karen Kelleher.

Karen Kelleher, deputy director of state operations at the Bureau of Land Management, on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee

Sen. Ron Wyden’s latest effort boost the use of prescribed fire in forests across the West received a mostly positive review Wednesday from the Forest Service but still faces obstacles.

Wyden’s bill — the “National Prescribed Fire Act,” S. 4424 — was a late add to a hearing of the Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining. It’s the latest version of legislation the Oregon Democrat has been pushing for several years.

The Forest Service’s associate deputy chief, Troy Heithecker, said proposed prescribed fire accounts could overlap with other similar programs. And he suggested Wyden’s idea to increase prescribed burns by set percentages each year would be overly prescriptive.


Still, Heithecker said, the Biden administration agrees with the bill’s goal of boosting prescribed fire during cooler, wetter months when the risk of them escaping control is greatly diminished.