A Wyoming man is facing a $75,000 a day fine from the Environmental Protection Agency because he built a stock pond on his own property.
The agency claims private landowner Andrew Johnson violated the Clean Water Act by building the pond near a stream, and has ordered him to restore the land back to its original state.
“EPA appears more interested in intimidating and bankrupting Mr. Johnson than it does in working cooperatively with him,” three US Senators wrote in a letter to the agency about Johnson’s case. A spokesman for Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) gave Off The Grid News a copy of the letter.
The Senators also alleged that a compliance order issued to Johnson could affect property owners all over the country.
“The Compliance Order … appears to rest on a broad assertion of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act, offering an ominous signal of EPA’s intentions for its current ‘waters of the United States’ rulemaking,” states the letter signed by Senators David Vitter (R-Louisiana), Barrasso (R-Wyoming) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming). “… Rather than a sober administration of the Clean Water Act, the Compliance Order reads like a draconian edict of a heavy-handed bureaucracy.”
Man No Longer Controls Own Property
Johnson received the order last year after he built a small pond to provide water for his cattle on his property near Fort Bridger, Wyoming, which is near Evanston. The EPA says Johnson built a dam on Six Mile Creek, but Johnson says he did not dam it up but simply built a stock pond near it.
The EPA is insisting that it has the right to control all activities on properties with streams that drain into “waters of the United States.” This isn’t the first time the EPA has used the act to claim jurisdiction over a farmer. As Off The Grid News reported, it tried to fine West Virginia poultry farmer Lois $37,500 every times it rains because of water that drained off her property.
Critics are alleging that the EPA has changed the way the Clean Water Act to claim jurisdiction over property and regulate farmers and ranchers. It would affect any property owner along a water way they alleged.
EPA Sets ‘Unreasonable’ Deadline
The senators also criticized the EPA for setting “unreasonable and crushing” deadlines on Johnson.
“The agency has ordered him to submit within 30 days a plan prepared by a consultant that assesses the impacts of the supposed unauthorized discharges, provides a restoration plan that must be approved by EPA, and contains a schedule requiring all restoration work to be completed within 60 days of the plan’s approval,” the senators said. “Of course, this is no small task, but EPA’s warning that Mr. Johnson may be subject to $37,500 per day in civil penalties if he fails to live up to the Compliance Order’s terms as well as an additional $37,500 per day in penalties for statutory violations makes EPA’s threats especially severe. Indeed, EPA appears more interested in intimidating and bankrupting Mr. Johnson than it does in working cooperatively with him.”
Earlier, it had given him only 10 days to respond to the complaint. The senators gave the EPA a 10 day deadline to respond to them, saying, “As EPA provided Mr. Johnson with only ten calendar days to respond its Compliance Order, we trust that the agency is capable of responding within a similar timeline.”
The senators asked the EPA to withdraw their complaint against Johnson.