Wyoming Farmer Taking on the EPA

Wyoming Farmer Taking on the EPA

One Wyoming farmer is refusing to be intimidated by the Environmental Protection Agency into demolishing a stock pond he and his wife built in 2012 on his eight-acre Wyoming farm. Andy Johnson and his wife Katie used pure water to fill their pond and filled it with brook and brown trout, ducks and geese. The Johnson’s three children we looking forward to playing there, and the Johnson’s horses could use the pond to drink and the surrounding area to graze.

But then the Environmental Protection Agency threatened Johnson on January 30 with a fine that could amount to $75,000-a-day because the agency claimed he violated the Clean Water Act by building the pond without a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. It asserted that he had built a dam on a creek illegally, and that the residue from the Johnson’s pond could flow into other waterways. The agency gave him 30 days to hire a consultant to assess the environmental impact of the pond and come up with a restoration proposal that was acceptable to the EPA as well a schedule showing he would fix the problem in 60 days or less.

Johnson answered them that his stock pond, a man-made pond that is intended to attract wildlife to it, was exempt from the Clean Water Act rules and that not only had he had already checked Wyoming’s rules for building stock ponds fine, he had a letter from the Wyoming State Engineer’s Office that approved of his work. The letter stated, “Said permit is in good standing and is entitled to be exercised exactly as permitted.”

Johnson told FoxNews.com., “I have not paid them a dime nor will I. I will go bankrupt if I have to fighting it. My wife and I built [the pond] together. We put our blood, sweat and tears into it. It was our dream. This goes a lot further than a pond. It’s about a person’s rights. I have three little kids. I am not going to roll over and let [the government] tell me what I can do on my land. I followed the rules.” 

Johnson went into action when he received the letter from the EPA on January 30, contacting state lawmakers who forwarded his plight to Wyoming’s two U.S. senators, John Barrasso and Mike Enzi as well as Louisiana Sen. David Vitter. On March 12, The senators wrote Nancy Stoner, the EPA’s acting assistant administration for water, and demanded that the EPA back down, saying, “Rather than a sober administration of the Clean Water Act, the Compliance Order reads like a draconian edict of a heavy-handed bureaucracy.” They added:

Fairness and due process require the EPA base its compliance order on more than an assumption. Instead of treating Mr. Johnson as guilty until he proves his innocence by demonstrating his entitlement to the Clean Water Act section 404 (f)(1)(C) stock pond exemption, EPA should make its case that a dam was built and that the Section 404 exemption does not apply. 

The EPA has been trying redefine the boundaries of which bodies of water they can supervise under the Clean Water Act.

The senators’ letter took note of the EPA’s desire to expand its jurisdiction, writing,

“If the compliance order stands as an example of how EPA intends to operate after completing its current ‘waters of the United States’ rulemaking, it should give pause to each and every landowner throughout the country

Johnson views the situation as an opportunity to teach his kids an invaluable lesson. He said, “This is showing them that they shouldn’t back down. If you need to stand up and fight, you do it.”