EPA’s Pinocchio nose continues to grow longer. Despite a barrage of criticism following the admitted release of private farmer data to three environmental groups after a Freedom of Information Act request, EPA has clammed up and carried on.
The release of the sensitive farmer information was no small breach: names, email addresses, home addresses and phone numbers of 80,000 farmers and ranchers in 30 states were given to the National Defense Council, Earth Justice, and the Pew Charitable Trusts.
EPA is sticking close to a no-contrition policy. “In response, EPA determined that some personal information that could have been protected under FOIA was released. EPA has now redacted that information and asked the FOIA requesters to return the original information,” said a EPA spokesperson.
That’s right; EPA first releases private data on thousands of farmers and then doubles down with Baghdad Bob claims, insulting the intelligence of those same farmers, by insisting that the environmental groups have been asked to “return” the data. With lawsuit-minded lawyers milling about and eco-terrorism a reality, EPA expects farmers to accept such a brazen claim?
As far as EPA is concerned, the matter was over. No one takes responsibility; no heads roll; and no concise explanation is offered. (EPA may have pulled a page from USDA’s playbook on the Pigford scandal.)
A bipartisan group of 24 senators in not buying what EPA is selling. On June 13, the senators sent an open letter to Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe, requesting EPA explain its actions: “Unlike most regulated facilities, farms and ranches are also homes and information regarding these facilities should be treated and released with that understanding.”
The 24 senators asked Perciasepe a series of questions regarding the data release, including:
1. Did EPA consult with USDA or Homeland Security at any point?
2. Under what authority did EPA release the data?
3. Why did EPA collect data on small farmers under the CAFO threshold in the first place?
4. Why did the EPA collect information on farmers with only a few animals? “As an example, the information EPA compiled on Iowa farmers included the information on an individual who had one pig, and another individual who had 12 horses … What purpose is served in collecting data on people who only have a few animals?”
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) blasted the EPA’s actions: “Whether they’re spying on farmers or leaking their personal information, the EPA is clearly targeting farm families, and this has to stop.”
EPA’s cooperation with the FOIA request from the three environmental groups is wrapped in irony — considering EPA’s history of stonewalling over other FOIA requests by former administrators Lisa Jackson and Carol Browner. (See EPA loves privacy rights, at least its own)
Keep watching; EPA’s nose will continue growing.....