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Karl Guenther Column: EPA violates trust

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It seems to me that any one of the three equal arms of our federal government has ample justification for snatching the Environmental Protection Agency by its collective short hairs, and jerking it up straight. EPA’s top administrator is, of course, a Presidential Appointee.  Most directly and effectively the President himself could make the case for we the people.  That’s not likely to happen.  Then there’s Congress, and the Supreme Court.  If anybody has tried to make a case through the Federal Court System, I haven’t heard about it, so I’m not looking for immediate action there.  That leaves the Congress. 

The several Senate Committees with direct influence are, of course, chaired by Senators from the President’s political party - - not likely any action against EPA there, either.  BUT, and it’s a big one, the President’s “loyal opposition” holds the various applicable chairmanships in the House. Some hope there, but then we all know something about how splintered is that particular body politic.  So, maybe this EPA thing will just have to run its natural course, until the 2014 Congressional elections, or perhaps until 2016, and the end of the Administration’s second 4-year term.

Here are some things that COULD be dealt with, if the responsible people felt inclined to do it.  Recall, if you will, a recent complaint from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and the National Pork Producers Council.  Those two organizations’ spokesmen were speaking for themselves, from their own experiences, as well as for members of their organizations who had been violated by EPA.  EPA, in pursuit of some of its duties - real or assumed - - collected sensitive data from livestock producers - - OK so far, but then released that data to organizations having nothing but ill-will toward big-time livestock producers.  One of those is the Natural Resources Defense Council.  Some of you are old enough to remember that organization’s terrorism attack on the apple industry use of Alar.  Turned out to be much ado about nothing, but it raised “hail, columbia” with the U.S. apple industry. “Earth Justice” was another recipient of EPA largesse.  EPA says it was only responding to a Freedom of Information Act request.

The Livestock people say the release of that critical information violated EPA’s own policies, and that EPA had no such obligation under Freedom of Information, and that it violated the Privacy Act of 1974.  Seems like that’s enough for Congress, or the Administration, or the Supreme Court.

I did observe, in this column last fall, that many farmers across the country only reluctantly reveal critical information to the Census of Agriculture, and that now and then, we hear of someone who flatly refused to divulge certain critical data, out of concern for either leakage, or deliberate dispersal, despite USDA’s assurance of Privacy protection.  EPA, of course, is not USDA - - but, if the horse gets out of the paddock, does it matter who left the gate open?

Karl Guenther is a retired Kalamazoo farm broadcaster and can be reached at khguenther@att.net. He is a member of Michigan Farm Bureau and an emeritus member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting.

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