EPA Flyovers, Open Fields and the Right to Privacy

In 2012, the EPA found itself in the middle of a firestorm when Iowa and Nebraska feedlot owners learned that EPA was conducting flyovers to look for Clean Water Act violations. The story really went viral when a Congressman referenced that the EPA was using drones for these spy-like missions. That wasn’t true—no drones were used—but the EPA did flyover farms with small aircraft and photograph apparent water quality violations. A number of Senators and House members raised objections, but eventually the issue subsided.

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