There is a rule change that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers want to implement, which would threaten the property rights of just about every landowner in America!
Clean Water Act is about to change
They are planning to amend the definition of “waters of the United States” in the Clean Water Act, ostensibly to protect our waterways from pollution. Previously, that term referred to rivers, lakes, and even some ponds, but now it could include just about any water. It could be a ditch on your property, or even a slight depression on the land that only contains water for certain rainy periods of the year. The new rule is so broad that if you have a large puddle on your property, you will probably have to consult the EPA before you make any changes to your own land.
To get an idea of what we are in for, consider the case of Andy Johnson, a Wyoming landowner who decided to build a pond on his property to feed his livestock. He obtained the state permits he needed for a stock pond on his acreage near Fort Bridger, Wyoming, then received approval from the state when it was finished now is facing the possibility of fines totaling millions of dollars because he did not get a permit from the federal government.
A lawsuit filed against the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday, however, argues federal law clearly exempts stock ponds from EPA rules, so he shouldn’t even have had to contact the agency.
EPA officials at the agency’s Denver office told WND they could not comment on the lawsuit filed in federal court in Wyoming by the Pacific Legal Foundation. The foundation is representing this Wyoming rancher against the EPA compliance order threatening him with $37,500 in fines per day! During the 14 months that Johnson has contested the EPA’s claim, his potential liability has risen to more than $16 million.
“We are challenging an outrageous example of EPA overreach against a private citizen who has done nothing wrong,” said PLF Staff Attorney Jonathan Wood.
Mr. Johnson constructed a pond for his livestock by damming a stream on his private property with no connection to any navigable water. Under the plain terms of the Clean Water Act, he was entirely within his rights, and didn’t need federal bureaucrats’ permission.
“But EPA regulators have decided they know better than the law,” Wood continued. “By trying to seize control of Andy Johnson’s land – and threatening him with financial ruin – they are imposing their will where they have no authority. Ironically, EPA is attempting to destroy a scenic environmental asset that provides habitat for fish and wildlife, and cleans water that passes through it, all in the name of enforcing the Clean Water Act.”
“I think they’re using me as a test case,” said Andy Johnson.
The pond was created in 2013 by building a dam across an intermittent stream. It provides a more reliable water source for Johnson’s horses, cattle and other livestock.
The legal team, which is seeking a court’s declaration that the pond is exempt from EPA oversight and a cancellation of the compliance order along with an injunction preventing future arguments, said that Johnson had obtained from Ray and Susan Kagel, experts in stream and wetland restoration and mitigation, reports that the dam actually improves the habitat in the area.
Their reports explained there were “numerous” environmental benefits from the creation of wetlands and riparian vegetation areas as well as habitat for migratory birds, fish and wildlife.
Even the water draining off the property was cleaner than the water entering, they said.
“In addition to providing water for his livestock, the pond has been an environmental boon,” said Ray Kagel, a former Army Corps of Engineers enforcement officer and environmental consultant.
Among the beneficiaries have been moose and bald eagles.
“According to tests by an independent lab, the water flowing out of Andy’s pond is three times cleaner than the water entering his pond,” Kagel noted. “And the suspended solids in the nearest navigable waterway – the Green River – are 41 times greater than in Andy’s pond, which means that Andy’s pond is significantly cleaner than the downstream river that’s allegedly affected.”
Wood said the EPA’s “double standard is mind-blowing.”
“This is the same agency that just created a toxic mess in Colorado’s Animas River, with no accountability for the blundering bureaucracy. But here they are, threatening Andy Johnson with astronomical fines, for building an environmentally beneficial stock pond that actually purifies the water that runs through it.”
Besides, PFL reported, the Clean Water Act specifically exempts “construction or maintenance of farm or stock ponds.”
Wood explained Johnson had tried to get the EPA to correct its order.
“For more than a year, Andy Johnson has sought to explain EPA’s error to it,” said Wood. “He provided them a report on the project prepared by a former Army Corps of Engineers enforcement officer that lauds its many environmental benefits. Of course, he pointed to his receiving all the necessary state and local permits. But EPA won’t budge, or even explain why it should be able to ignore the law’s exemption for stock ponds.”
Johnson said he wanted “to provide stock water for our horses and cows, improve our property, and provide an environmental benefit as well.”
“”We went through all the hoops that the state of Wyoming required, and I’m proud of what we built. My pond has been a tremendous environmental benefit. You can see moose and other wildlife come down, and four- and five-pound brown trout live in it. And water that goes out through the spillway is filtered and pristine,” he said.
But the EPA has ignored all of that. He blamed the federal agency for being “on a mission to expand its power.
Why is this case so annoying?
Well, keep in mind that everything that has happened to him occurred before the EPA decided to broaden their definition of ‘water.’ I cannot imagine how bad enough things will get with the new rule change!
Fortunately, the EPA’s policy was challenged just hours before it was supposed to take effect on August 28th. Judge Ralph Erickson of the District Court for the District of North Dakota filed an injunction on the behalf of 13 states that are currently suing the EPA. The Obama administration and the EPA plan to follow through and enforce the policy on the remaining states that have not joined the lawsuit yet.
Hopefully, this tyrannical policy will ultimately be discarded when the bold states have their day in court. America is supposed to be the land of free people, not the home of bureaucrats, isn’t it?
SHARE WITH YOUR FRIENDS!