Fri, Aug 03, 2012
Legislation's Author Says It Protects Farmers From EPA Eyes In The Sky
The U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has approved H.R. 5961, The Farmer’s Privacy Act of 2012.
The measure would make it illegal for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct aerial surveillance of farms in order to enforce the Clean Water Act, unless the agency can prove "reasonable suspicion." The bill also bans the EPA from using publically available satellite photographs for Clean Water Act enforcement.
“The purpose of the bill is to set up guidelines to that the EPA follows the law,” said Rep. Shelly Moore-Capito (R-WV), the author of the bill. “This bill ensures that the EPA responsibly enforces regulation.”
The bill requires that the EPA Administrator obtains written consent from the owner of any land that the agency wants to inspect using aerial or satellite technology, and that the written consent is granted voluntarily by the owner or operator of the land. The Administrator also may not threaten additional, more detailed, or more thorough inspections, or otherwise coerce or entice such owner or operator, in order to obtain such consent.
The agency would also be required to give public notice several days before any surveillance takes place. The "Reasonable Suspicion" for conducting the surveillance would be determined by United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
Democrats on the Committee felt the bill would obstruct EPA’s ability to perform its duties. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said, “The only purpose of this bill is to make EPA enforcement of the Clean Water Act more difficult and more expensive.”
The measure now heads to the full House for consideration.
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