“Courts, including the Supreme Court, have found similar types of flights to be legal (for example to take aerial photographs of a chemical manufacturing facility) and EPA would use such flights in appropriate instances to protect people and the environment from violations of the Clean Water Act,” the agency said in response to a question about legality.Nebraska's congressional delegation isn't so sure the flights are legal, and it's sent the agency a letter seeking to learn more about the scope and intent of the operations. Senator Mike Johanns said in an interview last week the EPA actions make him uncomfortable. Johanns, a former Secretary of Agriculture Commissioner under President Bush, describes the EPA as an agency with little public trust.
For now the EPA is apparently using small planes. No word on whether the agency plans to switch to drones at some point.