“Threatening me with ruinous fines even though I’ve done nothing wrong is extortionate”.
A Wyoming rancher facing more than $16 million in fines from the Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to take his case to federal court.
The incident began in 2012 when Fort Bridger resident and rancher Andy Johnson built a small stock pond in order to provide water to his livestock.
Shortly thereafter, Johnson was approached by the EPA and told that his pond violated the federal Clean Water Act, an infraction that carries a maximum fine of $37,000-per-day.
Johnson, who says he obtained all proper permits prior to building the pond, believes the EPA has clearly overstepped its authority.
“We went through all the hoops that the state of Wyoming required, and I’m proud of what we built,” Johnson said. “The EPA ignored all that.”
In a statement to The Blaze, the EPA argued that they have been attempting for “many months” to work “cooperatively with Mr. Johnson to resolve the Clean Water Act issues.”
“EPA has not made any determinations regarding penalties in this matter nor made any penalty demand of Mr. Johnson,” the statement reads. “An order the agency sent to Mr. Johnson in January 2014 cites the maximum penalties for noncompliance established by Congress in the Clean Water Act. References to these penalty provisions are included in all EPA enforcement orders to ensure that respondents are fully aware of the relevant provisions of environmental laws.”
Despite the fact that Congress has exempted stock ponds from the Clean Water Act, the EPA appears to remain undeterred in their targeting of Johnson.
“Threatening me with ruinous fines even though I’ve done nothing wrong is extortionate,” Johnson told Watchdog.org. “This is a battle about more than my land, my livestock and my pond. The EPA is on a mission to expand its power. They want to take over jurisdiction over private property throughout the United States.”
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