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Nebraska lawmakers question EPA's aerial livestock surveillance

AP

A bipartisan group of Capitol Hill lawmakers is pressing EPA Director Lisa Jackson to answer questions about privacy issues and other concerns after the agency used aerial surveillance to monitor livestock operations over their home state of Nebraska.

“Farmers and ranchers in Nebraska pride themselves in the stewardship of our state’s natural resources. As you might imagine, this practice has resulted in privacy concerns among our constituents and raises several questions,” says the letter signed by Republican Reps. Adrian Smith, Jeff Fortenberry and Lee Terry, as well as Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson and GOP Sen. Mike Johanns.

Smith, co-chairman of the Modern Agriculture Caucus and the Congressional Rural Caucus, said Tuesday the operations in many cases are near homes so “landowners deserve legitimate justification given the sensitivity of the information gathered by the flyovers.”

The letter asks nearly two-dozen questions including why the inspections are being conducted, how many flights have occurred and whether they have resulted in any enforcement activities.

“Nebraskans are rightfully skeptical of an agency which continues to unilaterally insert itself into the affairs of rural America,” Smith added.

The Environmental Protection Agency uses aerial surveillance across a swath of the Midwest know as Section 7 – which  includes Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and  Missouri -- and has defended the practice as cost-efficient.

The agency declined to comment Wednesday. The letter gave the agency until June 10 to respond.

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