Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE) has introduced legislation which would ban the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from conducting aerial surveillance for one year. The bill comes after EPA failed to fully respond to multiple requests for a clear, complete account of the size and scope of its surveillance program.
“I want to be very clear, this legislation does not affect EPA’s ability to use traditional on-site inspections, but given EPA’s track record of ignorance about agriculture, if not downright contempt for it, farmers and ranchers do not trust this agency,” Johanns said in a speech on the Senate floor Aug. 1. “Until EPA takes a more common sense, transparent, open approach, we need to step on the brakes.
“This bill does that. It places a one-year moratorium on EPA from using aerial surveillance. This will give the agency time to come clean about its activities nationwide and make the case that these flights are an appropriate use of agency authority and taxpayer money.”
To watch Sen. Johanns’ floor speech on this issue click here.
The legislation is similar to a bill introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE).
The entire Nebraska delegation sent two letters to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson earlier this summer requesting a full explanation of the agency's surveillance program. Jackson has refused to respond, instead delegating the response to a regional administrator who has been unable or unwilling to offer insight into the full national scope of the program.
Sen. Johanns’ amendment to the farm bill to ban EPA aerial surveillance received 56 bipartisan votes in the Senate in June, including 10 Democrats, though it did not receive the 60 votes required to pass.
Neither delegation letter, nor Johanns, has suggested EPA uses drones for its surveillance program, as some news outlets have reported.