Wyoming farmer battling EPA over legal stock pond

Just a couple of weeks after it incompetently let loose millions of gallons of waste water from an abandoned gold mine, the Environmental Protection Agency is suing a Wyoming farmer for legally constructing a pond to water his stock on his own property.

The farmer has racked up $16 million in fines already, and the EPA is looking at hitting him with additional penalties.

Washington Times:

Even though the Clean Water Act exempts stock ponds, and Mr. Johnsonhad obtained the necessary state permits, the EPA ordered him in January 2014 to restore the area to its original condition or accumulate fines of $37,500 a day. Instead, Mr. Johnson hired a lawyer.

“The EPA is out to expand its power, and I’m a test case,” said Mr. Johnsonin a statement. “We’re going to fight them all the way.”

Last week, his attorneys — including the Pacific Legal Foundation and the Budd-Falen law firm in Cheyenne — filed a lawsuit against the agency to stop it from enforcing the compliance order.

“The EPA’s double standard is mind-blowing,” said PLF staff attorney Jonathan Wood in a statement after the motion was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Wyoming.

Hypocrisy and double standards aside, the EPA has to have some legal basis for this, right?


Although stock ponds are specifically excluded from the Clean Water Act, the EPA argued that Mr. Johnson had violated federal law by constructing a dam on Six Mile Creek, which runs through his property, in order to fill the stock pond.

The creek is a tributary of the Green River, which is a “navigable, interstate water of the United States,” according to the EPA order.

As a result, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers concluded that Mr. Johnsonneeded a “standard, project-specific CWA permit,” and not just the permits issued by Wyoming, which he had obtained.

The EPA also described the sand, gravel, clay and concrete blocks used byMr. Johnson to construct the dam as “dredged material” and “pollutants” as described under the Clean Water Act.

“Six Mile Creek filled and disturbed by Respondent’s unauthorized activities provided various functions and values, including: wildlife habitat for birds, mammals, fish, reptiles and amphibians; water quality enhancement; flood attenuation; and/or aesthetics,” said the EPAcomplaint.

His tab now exceeds $16 million, but EPA spokeswoman Julia P. Valentine told the Casper Star Tribune that the agency has made no final determination regarding financial penalties.

The Green River, which runs through Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado, is a major tributary of the Colorado River.  But the dam was built on another tributary of the Green River in Wyoming.  The EPA is claiming that a tributary of a tributary is "navigable water" and thus subject to EPA jurisdiction.

Beyond that, the EPA’s description of the building materials is bizarre.  It appears they're just making it up as they go along, looking to flex their bureaucratic muscles in an attempt to intimidate small farmers like Mr. Johnson.

This is the definition of a federal agency out of control.  And the blizzard of regulations coming in the next few years promises more of the same.

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