WASHINGTON — A Colorado House Republican indicated he would re-introduce a measure that would allow the U.S. Forest Service to lease as many as five new large firefighting air tankers. A spokesman for Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) said the lawmaker was looking into drafting a stand-alone bill to accomplish the same goal. The House had approved Tipton’s measure as an amendment to the farm bill Thursday, but rejected the underlying bill.
An amendment sponsored by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder) that would permit colleges and universities to grow and cultivate industrial hemp in states in which the production is legal met a similar fate.
Supporters said the measure would help combat wild fires and forest fires with newer aircraft from private contractors and save money in the long run.
“It gives us another tool in the tool chest,” Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, said in an interview Thursday.
Tipton noted the federal government spends $1.77 billion to suppress wildfires and $268 million to prevent and treat wildfires. “There is an imbalance there that we can do a better job of addressing,” he said in an interview Thursday.
The measure would have allowed the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture to enter a contract with private companies to lease firefighting air tankers. It said the contracts would impose no additional cost on the federal government.
A July 2012 study from the Rand Corporation concluded that the average annual capital and operating costs of leasing a 3,000-gallon air tanker is $7.1 million.
Tipton’s measure passed in the House without opposition.