EPA flyover amendments fail

Jun 22, 2012
by DTN

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be allowed to continue using aerial surveillance as a tool to enforce Clean Water Act (CWA) violations after the U.S. Senate last Thursday failed to pass two separate amendments to the farm bill—one to ban the practice and another to allow aerial surveillance with certain restrictions.

An amendment by Sen. Mike Johanns, R-NE, that would have banned the practice outright fell just four votes shy of the needed 60 for passage. Because the amendments were considered non-germane to the farm bill, they required 60 votes to pass.

Prior to the vote on an amendment offered by Sen.

Barbara Boxer, D-CA, which would have allowed the practice with certain restrictions, Johanns urged the Senate to reject the Boxer amendment.

Johanns said his amendment was necessary because EPA had not provided sufficient information about its flyover program.

“Farmers and ranchers don’t trust the EPA,” he said.

“They could have reached out to the Congressional delegation and they didn’t. I found out about this accidentally. This is an amendment based on a lack of cooperation from EPA.”

Johanns’ amendment would have prohibited EPA from recording images of agricultural operations, but would not affect the use of traditional on-site inspections.

Boxer’s amendment would have allowed EPA to conduct flyovers of agriculture operations only if it is deemed more “cost-effective than ground inspections and EPA has notified state officials of such flights.”

The Boxer amendment went down in a 47-47 vote. While the flyover language failed to clear the Senate, there are now nearly a dozen House members pushing a bill that would stop EPA flyovers.

Also on the EPA front, on Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee approved a 2013 spending bill that would cut the EPA budget by about $1.4 billion from current funding levels.

The Obama administration has vowed to veto the bill, which also includes a rider to stop EPA from issuing a guidance document that would lead to the expansion of the agency regulation of navigable waters in the CWA. — DTN