UNMANNED SPY PLANES CONDUCTING SURVEILLANCE OF MIDWESTERN CATTLE FARMS!
At least that’s what some people thought the Environmental Protection Agency was up to and the story spread quickly. Twitter and some conservative media outlets picked it up.
And with each repetition, it appeared to gain more credibility.
The alleged EPA drones supposedly were dispatched from the Kansas City, Kan., site of the agency’s regional headquarters, to check on whether cow manure was fouling water supplies.
For EPA critics, the notion of spy planes hovering over the heartland was just too good to pass up.
“The idea of the EPA flying drones over Missouri farmland is deeply disturbing,” U.S. Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri wrote in a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. “The EPA assumes that Missouri farmers are the bad guys and are overreaching yet again … trying to find any possible reason to harass farmers.”
Except that there are no EPA “drones” flying over Missouri farmland, according to EPA officials. Or anywhere else, for that matter.
The anti-pollution agency has been sending up small piloted planes over cattle operations in Nebraska, as well as Iowa, to check for polluted runoff and potential violations of the Clean Water Act. Both states, along with Missouri and Kansas, are part of the same EPA Region VII.
But neither Missouri nor Kansas has been subject to similar inspection flights, according to the agency.
“When a story comes out about how government is misbehaving, then people who are suspicious of the government are much more likely to pick up on that information,” said John Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron. “In the online world … this kind of phenomenon can happen literally at the speed of light.”
The controversy began last month when the Nebraska congressional delegation wrote the EPA’s Jackson raising privacy questions about “a series of aerial surveillance flights” over livestock farms.
“Flying over private property is very different than flying over a chemical manufacturing plant, or even an open field,” said Kristen Hassebrook, director of natural resources and environmental affairs for the Nebraska Cattlemen, an industry trade group. “You’re flying over a facility that has a private home. The practice itself is what’s concerning to producers.”
However, neither the lawmakers in their letter nor the cattlemen ever used the word “drone.”
“I don’t know where the word ‘drone’ first came up,” Hassebrook said. “I spent two days just emailing and making phone calls telling people that there are no drones.”
An EPA spokesman could not be reached to publicly comment, but the agency has made no secret of using piloted flights for several years to inspect for Clean Water Act problems.
“For the record, the only aircraft the EPA has used to verify compliance with environmental laws are manned aircraft,” according to a letter from Karl Brooks, EPA regional administrator in Kansas City, Kan., to Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska.
Brooks said the flights were an “important, cost-effective tool to help protect local communities and water quality from harm that can result from discharges from these facilities.”
Read more here: http://midwestdemocracy.com/articles/false-reports-of-epa-drones-over-midwest-farms-alarm-public/#storylink=cpy
KC Star on Rumors of Drones Over Heartland Farms