Congresswoman Capito Introduces Legislation to Ban EPA's Aerial Surveillance

By on June 20, 2012 in Current Events with 114 Comments

Following on the heels of similar legislation introduced in the Senate, Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) has introduced legislation in the House that would ban the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from conducting aerial surveillance of farms throughout the country.

The legislation comes in response to surveillance the EPA has conducted on agricultural lands when enforcing the Clean Water Act.

Known as the Farmer’s Privacy Act of 2012, the legislation provides (subject to some noted exceptions) that the EPA may not conduct aerial surveillance of agricultural lands when enforcing the Clean Water Act.

“Agricultural lands” includes land used primarily for agricultural production, including cropland, grassland, prairie land, improved pastureland, rangeland, cropped woodland, marshes, and land used for agro-forestry or the production of livestock. 

“Aerial surveillance” is defined as including any surveillance from the air, including surveillance conducted from fixed wing aircraft, helicopters, drones, and remote controlled aircraft; and the use of aerial or satellite images, regardless of whether the images are publicly available.

Exceptions to the prohibition on aerial surveillance include:

  • If voluntary written consent has been obtained
  • If public notice has been given
  • If the EPA has obtained a certification of reasonable suspicion

Capito had reached out to the EPA about the matter last December, but concluded that legislation was going to be necessary to stop the practice of aerial surveillance. You can see Capito’s previous inquiry to the EPA as well as the agency’s response.

Speaking on the legislation, Capito said, “It’s getting to the point that I’ll have to file for a Clean Water Act permit if I want to turn the hose on in my backyard. The EPA will take any opportunity to make it harder for farmers, energy operators, or any business that deals with the EPA, to operate.”

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Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce. Ian also has a background in web development and does the technical work for the FedSmith.com web site and its sibling sites.

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