Energy & Environment

EPA flights could save taxpayers $1 million annually

EPA flights could save taxpayers $1 million annually

Blocking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from conducting aerial surveillance of livestock farms to spot Clean Water Act violations would cost taxpayers $1 million a year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The agency charged with reviewing legislation for budgetary implications said last week the Farmer’s Privacy Act would restrict the EPA to on-site inspections at costs of up to $10,000 per location.

The bill authored by Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) blocks the EPA from using aerial surveillance unless adequate public notice is given and the property owner has given their consent.

“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,” Capito said when she introduced her bill in June. “The EPA will take any opportunity to make it harder for farmers, energy operators, or any business that deals with the EPA, to operate.”

The EPA says it has not used unmanned drones for the flyovers, and defends its use of manned aerial surveillance as an efficient and cost-effective tool for investigating pollution.

The budget office said EPA over-flights cost between $1,000 and $2,500 per flight and allows for several animal feeding operations to be inspected during each trip.

The EPA admits to conducting at least 16 such flights since 2010 from its regional office that covers Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska and that it took more than 50 enforcement actions against animal feeding operations.

However, the budget office notes that the “vast majority” of operations that are inspected by the EPA are found in compliance with the Clean Water Act.

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