Look…up in the sky…it’s…the EPA!

The concerns about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) using aerial surveillance to inspect Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) in EPA Region 7 has farmers, the farming community, and some politicians very concerned.

Nebraska Senator, Mike Johanns, sent a letter to the EPA in May expressing his concerns about the flyover inspections and on June 11, 2012, the Senator received an official response from the Agency.

Here are some highlights in the five-page question and answer format response to Senator Johanns:

  • EPA enforcement action at CAFOs (in Nebraska and Iowa) where aerial images were collected: 53
  • “The flights are used as a screening tool to focus the on ground inspections on those operations likely to be polluting surface waters and threatening public health or the environment.”
  • “EPA Region 7’s process for identifying where it will fly involves looking at areas that contain high concentrations of large and medium sized animal feeding operations and/or watersheds where the state has identified impaired rivers and streams.”
  • “Flights to assess animal feeding operations in Region 7 did not begin until March 2010.”
  • Future plans for aerial inspections: “Two additional flights in Nebraska and two in Iowa.” And “EPA Region 7 plans on continuing to use the flights beyond FFY 2012.”
  • “As Agency records, these images are subject to the Freedom of Information Act.”
  • “EPA Region 7 has collected images that include residential buildings.” (Responding to the question, do the images collected ever include residential buildings?)

This action seems very consistent with the EPA’s goals under this administration. For example, as we previously pointed out (see March 10, 2010 ezine), the EPA announced their “National Enforcement Initiatives for Fiscal Years 2011–2013.”  The second initiative listed by the EPA is “Preventing Animal Waste from Contaminating Surface and Ground Waters.”

Many people are very concerned about the EPA’s action in Region 7.  In fact, Senator Johanns is concerned enough that he introduced an amendment to the Farm Bill that would ban EPA flyovers.

In any event, livestock owners and operators should make sure their permits and plans are up-to-date and fully implemented…and…keep a watchful eye on the sky.

EPA Flyover Question and Answers http://media.graytvinc.com/documents/Overflight.Q-A.6-11-2012.pdf

EPA Letter to Senator Johanns: http://media.graytvinc.com/documents/Senator+Johanns.pdf

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