Sen. Ben Nelson said the brief justification the Environmental Protection Agency has given for its flyovers of Nebraska farmland is inadequate.
Nelson told reporters during a conference call that Nebraska farmers and ranchers are rightly worried that their privacy rights are slowly eroding.
“But when you add to that government (is) now engaging in aerial surveillance, it doesn’t take much to think about before you’re saying, ‘What’s next?’” Nelson stated.
A short paragraph released by Region 7 of the EPA in Kansas City, attributed to no one in particular, states EPA has been using aerial over-flights to verify compliance of farm operations to environmental laws.
“For nearly a decade, EPA has used aerial over-flights to verify compliance with environmental laws in impaired watersheds. Aerial over-flights are a cost-effective tool that helps the Agency and our state partners minimize costs and reduce the number of on-site inspections across the country as the Agency focuses on areas of the greatest concern. For animal feeding operations, EPA uses over-flights, state records and other publicly available sources of information to identify discharges of pollution. In no case has EPA taken an enforcement action solely on the basis of these over-flights. EPA and other state and federal agencies also use aircraft for responding to emergencies such as chemical releases or to assess environmental disasters.”
Nelson said the paragraph released by Region 7 in Kansas City merely touches on the legality of the practice.
“They haven’t provided us with an adequate explanation and a short statement saying, ‘Well, we have the right to do it,’ is not the same as saying that it’s appropriate to do it or that there are economic justifications, other than it’s cheaper, to do it,” Nelson said.
Nelson said ranchers have told him they worry about how the information is being used.
AUDIO: Sen. Nelson calls EPA explanation of flyovers inadequate. [ 3 min.]