privacy

EPA acknowledges releasing personal details on farmers, senator slams agency

by FOXNews.com  |  published on April 10, 2013

The Environmental Protection Agency acknowledged Tuesday that it released personal information on potentially thousands of farmers and ranchers to environmental groups, following concerns from congressional Republicans and agriculture groups that the release could endanger their safety.

According to a document obtained by FoxNews.com, the EPA said “some of the personal information that could have been protected … was released.” Though the EPA has already sent out the documents, the agency now says it has since redacted sensitive details and asked the environmental groups to “return the information.”

But Sen. John Thune, who originally complained about the release, slammed the EPA for trying to retroactively recover the sensitive data.

“It is inexcusable for the EPA to release the personal information of American families and then call for it back, knowing full well that the erroneously released information will never be fully returned,” he said in a statement to FoxNews.com. “While EPA acknowledging that it erred is a first step, more must be done to protect the personal information of our farmers and ranchers now and in the future. I will continue to demand answers from the EPA on how this information was collected and why it is still being distributed to extreme environmental groups to the detriment of our farm and ranch families.”

The information on livestock and produce farmers was sought through a Freedom of Information Act request by the groups Earth Justice, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pew Charitable Trust. The groups, which have not commented on whether they plan to return the documents, were originally given information on roughly 80,000 farmers and ranchers.
The agency acknowledged the information included individual names, email addresses, phone numbers and personal addresses.

Thune, of South Dakota, where 500 farmers and ranchers had their information made public, sent a letter Monday to the EPA requesting the agency answer a list of questions — including whether agency officials reviewed the information to see whether the release complied with the federal Privacy Act of 1974.

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