EPA confesses to handing out farmers’ personal information to activist-lawyers.

Executive summary (H/T: AoSHQ): the EPA just admitted that, yeah, it gave out a bunch of personal information about farmers and ranchers – including phone numbers, email addresses, regular addresses, and whatnot – to various environmental groups.  The EPA also is kind of admitting that, yeah, maybe it shouldn’t have given out that information, which is why they’ve asked those groups to give that information back (note that the EPA apparently didn’t even bother to ask that the groups give back the information without making copies first).  This is not amusing Senator John Thune, because a) the damage is done; b) apparently nobody in the EPA talks to Agriculture & Homeland Security, which both decided not to make this particular information available in a database; and c) there’s a question about whether or not all of this violates the Privacy Act of 1974.

Before we go into the specific point about this situation that I wish to highlight, let me make a general observation to people who like big government; there are a lot of stories like this out there, just waiting to be found.  There always are.  But right now, we have a combination of factors that will bring these stories to the surface: there is an existing pattern of consistent government overreach, an administration that is increasingly being associated with heavy-handed, somewhat incompetent use of policy as a weapon, and a media that has just internalized the revelation that the government is reading their mail, too.  This could go on all summer, and probably will.

But back to the EPA!  Please, pay close attention to this part:

The EPA said the data was related to farms in 29 states with “concentrated animal feeding operations” and that the released information was part of the agency’s commitment to “ensure clean water and public-health protection.”

The groups wanted the information, they say, because such large-scale operations are a major source of water pollution and they want to hold the EPA accountable for enforcing the Clean Water Act.

Critics have characterized Earth Justice and the organizations as being “extremist groups” and say the released information included data on family farmers who feed fewer than 1,000 animals, which excludes them from having to comply with the Act.

…because this is where it gets interesting.  Earthjustice’s basic reason for existence is to try to sue into oblivion any industrial development that they don’t like; and a large part of their strategy is to find someone to target, then find something that they can target them with (like, for example, the Clean Water Act).  But you’re saying Moe, the family farmers aren’t subject to the CWA! …And perhaps that is true.  But there’s a whole bunch of regulations that those farmers are subject to – and their personal information has just been given to a bunch of hardcore progressive lawyers who capitalize the word ‘people.’  In other words; if you don’t think that the EPA has put small farmers and ranchers at increased risk of punitive lawfare by partisan activists, well.  I would almost envy you that  private world of yours, except that I suspect that there isn’t quite enough oxygen in it.

And, oh yeah: the EPA routinely waives Earthjustice’s filing fees (H/T: the appropriately named Watts Up With That?).  So the federal government essentially gave this information to them for free.

Moe Lane (crosspost)

11 thoughts on “EPA confesses to handing out farmers’ personal information to activist-lawyers.”

  1. The EPA is easily one of the worst offenders in American government when it comes to bullying and special-interest agenda driven regulations. It’s probably 2nd only to the IRS in terms of being an “Easy Mark” for the republicans to attack the idea of the big, friendly government that Obama wants to popularize. There ought to be a way to have the government have some roll in environmental protection (air and water do cross state lines) without the Leviathan that is the current EPA.

    1. My own opinion is the largest problem with the EPA is it is by definition an agency making laws by bureaucracy without having to face the electorate. The process should be simple, Congress makes the law saying you can’t dump x amount of bad stuff in y river and if you do you go to jail. The federal government has a law enforcement agency, let them enforce the law.

  2. Remember: Ghostbusters is a business. Walter Peck is an unelected EPA bureaucrat. The Mayor is a local elected offical who, in the end, sides with his constituents and kicks out the unelected EPA bureaucrat, so the business can get back to doing their job.
    If you like this moive, you’re a conservative.

  3. Let’s watch the other angle here too, Moe … this is doing a favor to the larger outfits (who are more likely to write large campaign contributions) by crushing their smaller, more nimble competition.
    Same thing is going on all over .. Illinois has the FDA helping to write regulations about milk production that will require families with 1 cow to follow the same procedures as corporate dairy farms with herds of 200+ cows. Why? To drive the small folks out of business!
    And yes, you read that correctly, the FDA, a Federal agency, is helping write regulations in a State… by invitation of the unelected State bureaucrats.

    1. Exactly acat. I was debating with an environmentalist friend the other day going off about Monsanto and told him: “Big central government state is what makes Monsanto possible. Big G gave them the patent on plant reproduction (yep, can’t disagree that is silly) and then used the instruments of Big G to enforce it on the little guy”.

      1. Hmmm. I wonder if I could file a patent on human reproduction and demand custody of the Monsanto executives’ kids …

  4. It sounds like it could be worse than that. Personal information is also useful for committing murder, and environmentalist wackos have been known to do that sort of thing.

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