In a totalitarian example of federal over-reach and violation of fundamental private property rights, a Fort Bridger, Wyoming rancher is racketing up fines of $37,500 a day for building a pond on his own land.
Andy Johnson says despite getting the proper permits and bringing the pond up to the standards of his state government, the federal Environmental Protection Agency claims he is in violation of the Clean Water Act – which since its inception, has been a tool used by federal regulators to throw individuals off their land, extort cash from them, and confiscate their property.
But this time, a serf is fighting back. Despite being told to bring his property back to its original state, Johnson has told the EPA to kick rocks, and is suing them in federal court.
In doing so he has amassed fines of over $16 million since 2012 for doing nothing more than building a “stock pond” on his ranch to provide better access to water for his animals.
“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. Threatening me with ruinous fines even though I’ve done nothing wrong is extortionate.”
In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court on Thursday, Johnson said the EPA is overstepping its authority.
“This is a battle about more than my land, my livestock and my pond,” Johnson said. “The EPA is on a mission to expand its power. They want to take over jurisdiction over private property throughout the United States.”
The EPA has offered no comment on the pending suit nor has it said how exactly Johnson is in violation of the Clean Water Act despite objections being raised about congressional exemptions written into the regulations for “stock ponds” built to provide water for animals like the one built by Johnson.
In March 2014 however, the EPA said, “The issue is whether Mr. Johnson qualified for the stock pond exemption. To qualify for this exemption, the pond must actually be used in farming or ranching operations, and it is only exempt to the size the farmer requires it to meet operational needs.”
So in other words, the federal government now determines how much water you need, and they have determined that Johnson has access to too much.
The case could take years to work its way through federal court but Johnson and attorneys argue that the pond has actually improved the environment by creating a wetland not only utilized by the ranchers own animals, but native wild life like eagles, moose, and water fowl as well.
Its important to understand that regulations, like laws, are enforced with the barrel of a gun. If Johnson looses his lawsuit, and refuses to bankrupt himself by paying the governments exorbitant extortion fees, armed men will come and throw him in a cage and confiscate his property – and if he resists, they will beat or likely kill him.
Wyoming Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis says the EPA’s actions exemplify “federal over-reach in the most egregiously ugly way.” Additionally, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead has called the behavior by the federal environmental thugs “heavy-handed.”
Video detailing Johnson’s plight: