Yet another news story pointing out that our beloved bureaucrats running the Environmental Protection Agency have an overinflated sense of self-importance. Straight from the important sounding World-Herald Bureau in Omaha, Nebraska:
Snapping photos of livestock farms from an airplane is a legal and cost-effective way to help protect Nebraska and Iowa streams from runoff contamination, say officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The agency’s aerial surveillance program came under scrutiny last week when Nebraska’s congressional delegation sent a joint letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. The elected officials asked Jackson to reply by June 10 to a list of 25 questions, including whether federal law allows such surveillance.
So we have the EPA now running a drone program, flying around the midwest snapping photos of local farms. When asked whether they have the authority to conduct surveillance, the EPA responded thusly:
“Courts, including the Supreme Court, have found similar types of flights to be legal (for example to take aerial photographs of a chemical manufacturing facility) and EPA would use such flights in appropriate instances to protect people and the environment from violations of the Clean Water Act,” the agency said in response to a question about legality.
Of course the EPA has the authority to conduct surveillance of individuals, says the EPA.
Lest anyone be confused, I’m all for aerial/satellite mapping of environmental conditions. These activities are important for measuring changing conditions across the landscape, developing environmental baselines, and mapping the environmental landscape. They also tend to protect privacy. What the EPA is doing is hunting for violations amongst farmers and ranchers and feedlot owners and others who (1) have not been notified that they are under inspection or surveillance, unlike when a health inspector shows up at a restaurant, and (2) may have broken no laws or be under the suspicion of breaking any laws justifying such surveillance, unlike under most circumstances when law enforcement seeks to conduct surveillance on a suspect and must have some reasonable suspicion that violations of law are occuring or are about to occur (there are exceptions, but you get my point). It’s a creepy practice and I hope Congress puts an immediate end to it.