August 27, 2015

PLF challenges EPA’s power grab

By PLF challenges EPA’s power grab

Pacific Legal Foundation is representing Wyoming rancher Andy Johnson in challenging an EPA compliance order threatening him with $37,500 per day in fines for constructing a stock pond on his property. PLF’s lawsuit, Andy Johnson v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, argues that Johnson’s pond is expressly exempt from the Clean Water Act, and that the stream in which he constructed the pond is not a jurisdictional water because it does not affect a navigable water.

EPA’s threats in this case are particularly indefensible. According to a former Corps of Engineers enforcement officer, the pond has many environmental benefits, including fish and wildlife habitat and enhanced water quality.

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Johnson v. Environmental Protection Agency

Andy Johnson built a stock pond on his Wyoming property to provide safer, more reliable access to water for his small herd of cattle. More than the cows benefitted: The pond created wetlands, habitat for fish and wildlife, and cleans the water that passes through it. Nonetheless, the federal EPA accused Johnson of violating the Clean Water Act, demanded that he rip out the pond, and threatened him with fines of $37,500 per day if he did not comply. PLF represented Johnson in a lawsuit against the EPA because “stock ponds” are explicitly exempted from Clean Water Act jurisdiction. The government agreed to settle – the pond stays and Johnson pays no fine so long as he plants willows around the pond and builds temporary fencing to limit the cattle’s access.

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