Barbara Boxer wins fight on EPA overflights of farmland, beats back drone charges
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., beat back an effort by Nebraska senators to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from flying over farmland to investigate pollution from confined animal feeding operations, commonly known as CAFO’s. Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., complained the the EPA was conducting overflights to pursue violations and was not forthcoming about what it was doing with the information.
Fox news and several members of Congress falsely accused the EPA of using drones to spy on farmers. The issue heated up the Missouri Senate race.
Johanns called the EPA actions “totally unacceptable.”
Boxer said EPA needs to conduct overflights in small aircraft to trace waste plumes. She called it a “life and death” issue, citing a 1993 case in Wisconsin when 50 people died after a bacterial outbreak from cow manure.
“It is true that on occasion small manned aircraft are used to investigate a spill,” Boxer said. “When following a plume the way to do it is from the air.” Boxer said investigating on the ground can cost $10,000 versus $2500 for an overflight.
Boxer and Johanns had competing amendments to address the issue on the farm bill. Senate leaders required both to reach a 60 vote supermajority to pass. Boxer’s amendment permitting the flights split 47-47, and failed. Johanns got a 56-43 vote, but also failed by not reaching 60. That means current policy allowing overflights remains the same.
Johanns noted that every Republican backed him along with 10 Democrats, including at least two in tight re-election races, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Jon Tester of Montana. “The Senate today sent the message that Americans deserve accountability and transparency,” Johanns said, vowing to demand that the EPA “open this program up to the level of transparency Americans deserve.”