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Thread: EPA targets couple's private pond in Wyoming, threatens huge fines

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    EPA targets couple's private pond in Wyoming, threatens huge fines

    EPA targets couple's private pond in Wyoming, threatens huge fines

    By Kelly David Burke
    Published May 28,

    When Andy and Katie Johnson built a pond on their property in 2011 to provide water for their cattle, they never dreamed it would result in threats of $75,000 a day in fines from the Environmental Protection Agency.

    The Johnsons believed they had done everything necessary to get permission for the pond, where the tiny Six Mile Creek runs through their property south of Fort Bridger, Wyo. The Wyoming State Engineer's Office provided the permit and even stated in an April 4, 2013 letter to the Johnsons: "All of the legal requirements of the State Engineer's Office, that were your responsibility, have been satisfied for the Johnson Stock Reservoir."

    The EPA saw it differently -- and sent the Johnsons a Jan. 30 notice informing them they had violated the Clean Water Act, which could carry thousands of dollars in fines.

    "I believe that the EPA does need to regulate industry and the bigger projects," Andy Johnson conceded, "but my little pristine stock pond, I believe, is a waste of our taxpayer money for them to come after me. It's a waste of my time, it's a waste of my money and we're going to fight it."

    In their notice, the EPA cited the couple for "the discharge of pollutants (i.e., dredged or fill material) into the waters of the United States," for building a dam and for not getting a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers.
    Andy Johnson denies the project caused any pollution. "It's all an assumption. There's been no soil samples done, there's been no water samples done."

    The Johnsons have since had their own testing done which they say shows that the water leaving the pond is cleaner than the water entering it. They also say that, far from damaging the environment, the pond has improved it.
    "Before we didn't have ducks and geese. ... Now you can see bald eagles here, we have moose come down. We have blue herons that come in every evening. Before we did this ... it was basically just a little irrigation canal."

    The EPA says Six Mile Creek runs into Black Forks River which runs into the Green River -- which it calls a "navigable, interstate water of the United States."

    The Johnsons and their attorney say Six Mile Creek has long been diverted about 300 yards below their property into a man-made canal used for irrigation.

    "There is no connection to the river," Andy Johnson maintains.
    The Johnsons were given 10 days to reply in writing that they would dismantle the pond and return the creek to its pre-pond state. The EPA gave them 30 days to hire an approved consultant to develop a plan, subject to EPA approval, for the work.
    "Unfortunately I was not surprised that they would come in and go after a guy who tried to improve his property," William Perry Pendley, president of Mountain States Legal Foundation, said.

    Pendley has no connection to Johnson's case but has represented others who have been targeted by the agency for violations of the Clean Water Act. "It's very frustrating and these things take an incredible length of time. And every benefit of the doubt goes to the federal government," he said.

    The Johnsons vow to fight, and have told the agency they don't plan to comply. The young couple have received hundreds of calls of support from landowners all over the country. Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead "called us and said that he is behind us," Andy Johnson said.
    And on March 12, U.S. Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, sent a letter to the EPA along with Wyoming Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi demanding an explanation.
    "Rather than sober administration of the Clean Water Act," the letter says, "the Compliance Order reads like a draconian edict of a heavy-handed bureaucracy."

    In a statement to Fox News, the agency said in part: "EPA staff recently had a productive discussion with Mr. Johnson, and we are currently reviewing information he sent to our attention last week regarding his construction of a dam and pond within Six Mile Creek. EPA will carefully evaluate this information and will continue to reach out to Mr. Johnson to identify options to secure compliance with the Clean Water Act."

    The Johnson case is troubling to those who see a proposed rule change to the Clean Water Act as a threat to small private landowners. Critics worry that the attempt to "re-define" what counts as U.S. waterways could broaden the reach of the EPA.
    "The Clean Water Act that was passed (in 1972) was 88 pages long," Pendley points out. "The EPA has just issued several hundred pages to re-define what 'waters of the United States' mean and it has incredible impact."
    In a follow up letter to the EPA on April 1, Vitter and his colleagues in Wyoming's congressional delegation also voiced concern about the proposed rule.

    "If ... the [Johnson] Compliance Order stands as an example of how EPA intends to operate after completing its ... rulemaking, it should give pause to each and every landowner throughout the country." the letter said.
    Also troubling to the Johnsons and their supporters is the amount of money at stake.

    The couple's attorney Dan Frank explained that the administrative order threatens $37,500 a day for each violation. Combined with other alleged violations, he said, "there is the potential for $75,000 per day in civil penalties."

    In a follow-up letter to the EPA, Vitter and his colleagues have asked for, but so far not received, clarification of the potential fines involved. They say their reading of the EPA's Administrative Order leads them to believe the Johnsons could potentially be subject to as much as $187,500 a day in fines.

    "In one month's time a landowner could be liable for more than $5.5 million in penalties. EPA could easily use the proposed rule to bankrupt small landowners for something as simple as building a pond or ditch anywhere near a wetland or stream," the letter said.
    Katie Johnson said they just wanted to create something special on their land. "I love it. I hope that we can settle it and keep the pond and ... be able to see our kids and grandkids enjoy it."

    Andy Johnson said the EPA picked on the wrong people. "Because we're not going to just roll over. I'm not going to give money that was supposed to be for my kids' future and their college for something that I got permission for in the beginning. We're not tearing this out."
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    Unobtanium mick silver's Avatar
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    Re: EPA targets couple's private pond in Wyoming, threatens huge fines

    they are at war with all the people in this country and sooner then later with the world ... epa
    “Now remember, when things look bad and it looks like you’re not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean, mad-dog mean. ‘Cause if you lose your head and you give up then you neither live nor win. That’s just the way it is.” ~ Outlaw Josey Wales…


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    Re: EPA targets couple's private pond in Wyoming, threatens huge fines

    The small farmers may facing more tyranny from the EPA & Army Corps of Engineers reminiscent of the Obama years.

    Biden’s EPA & US Army to reverse Trump’s Waters of USA policy. Part of the 30 x 30 Plan?

    EPA, Department of the Army to revise Waters of the U.S. definition

    June 10, 2021 By Amie Simpson Filed Under: Agriculture, EPA, News, Water/Water quality/Water management


    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers have announced their intent to revise the definition of Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act.

    EPA Administrator Michael Regan says the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule is leading to “significant environmental degradation.”

    President Biden requested a review of the Trump Administration’s rule. As a result, Regan says the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers will establish a definition of waters of the U.S. based on Supreme Court precedent and draw on lessons learned and input from stakeholders.

    The agencies have determined the Navigable Waters Protection Rule is significantly reducing clean water protections. As a result of the findings, the Department of Justice is filing a motion requesting remand of the rule.

    The agencies will initiate a new rulemaking process that restores the protections in place prior to the 2015 WOTUS implementation. They will develop a new rule that defines WOTUS and is informed by the experience of implementing the pre-2015 rule, the Obama-era Clean Water Rule, and the Trump-era Navigable Waters Protection Rule.

    The agencies said they also found 333 projects that would have required Clean Water Act Section 404 permits before the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, but no longer do.

    Acting Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jaime Pinkham says the agencies will develop a rule informed by technical expertise that is straightforward to implement and shaped by the lived experience of local

    EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers say the new regulatory effort will be guided by:
    *protecting water resources and communities consistent with the Clean Water Act
    *the latest science and the effects of climate change on waters
    *emphasizing a rule with a practical implementation approach for state and Tribal partners
    *reflecting the experience of and input received from landowners, the agricultural community that fuels and feeds the world, states, Tribes, local governments, community organizations, environmental groups, and disadvantaged communities with environmental justice concern

    Click here for more information.

    Tags: Agriculture, Army Corps of Engineers, Biden Administration, Clean Water Act, clean water rule, Department of the Army, Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, EPA Administrator Michael Regan, Navigable Waters Protection Rule, President Biden, Trump Administration, water, Waters of the US, WOTUS
    "A well regulated Militia being NECESSARY to the security of a free State"

    "That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the most Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." July 4, 1776

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    Re: EPA targets couple's private pond in Wyoming, threatens huge fines

    Legal fictions have 99 years to operate before they vanish. This is the Rule Against Perpetuities. After 99 years they are permitted to exist but only as charitable trusts.

    The U.S. and all it's organs, agencies and departments have had their 99 years (as has Russia, the U.K. etc). These guys can only perform charitable acts or they need to be called on their right to a continued existence.

    We living need to be a tad more selective in the area of authority. When you don't have it then move aside for those who do!

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    midnight rambler (11th June 2021)

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