April 18, 2013
Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that they mistakenly released personal information of thousands of farmers to environmental groups in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. This breach of confidentiality resulted from the agencies desire to appease environmentalists, and I am appalled that the EPA would be so careless with the personal information of these hardworking farmers.
In 2011, the EPA proposed a rule that requires contained animal feeding operations (CAFO’s) owners to provide the EPA with specific information, such as their location and personal contact information. In July of 2012, the EPA withdrew this rule due to privacy concerns; however the EPA continued to collect this data using information collected on the state level. This information was released as a result of three environmental groups’ FOIA request.
Rather than ensuring that all personal information was redacted before being released to the public, the EPA only redacted information from ten of thirty states. This information included the personal home addresses, telephone numbers, and email addresses of these farmers. The EPA requested the information back after it had been released; however that request was basically null and void because it had already been made public.
This incompetent, or deliberate, release has placed the CAFO’s and their owners at the risk of possible vigilantes. I have written to EPA demanding that they perform a thorough investigation of this careless mistake and hold those responsible fully accountable.
In this letter, I along with sixteen of my colleagues have demanded a copy of the agency’s entire investigation, as well as their plan of action to protect these farmers whose privacy has been breached. We have made it clear that we expect a response no later than April 26th, 2013. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that I have been appalled by the actions of the EPA. The agency is consistently implementing burdensome red tape and regulations that stifle economic growth and trample private property rights. I chair the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, which has jurisdiction over the agency, and we have looked into countless instances of their implementing unnecessary and oppressive regulations.
This most recent action by the EPA is unfortunately one of many that I have witnessed since assuming oversight of the agency, putting Americans’ livelihoods and families at risk.