Last August I talked to you about Andy Johnson, a rancher in Wyoming who was being tagged with upwards of $16M in fines by the EPA for building a small stock pond on his property. Even though the pond actually cleans the water in the stream which flows through it, provides hydration for trees and keeps his cattle alive, the EPA determined that this was some sort of gross violation of their control over every drop of running or standing water in the country under their recently expanded interpretation of the Clean Water Act. (By the way… that power grab was suspended by the courts, but that’s not stopping the EPA from pursuing enforcement anyway.)

This case has finally come to a close, though it was “settled” rather than mandated by a judge. The EPA is backing down, cancelling the fines and allowing Johnson to keep his pond. (Washington Times)

A Wyoming rancher facing $20 million in fines for building a stock pond on his property has settled his lawsuit with the Environmental Protection Agency in a deal that allows him to keep his watering hole and his money.

In a case that drew national attention, the EPA ordered Mr. Johnson in January 2014 to tear out the pond or pay $37,500 per day in fines for what the agency described as a violation of the Clean Water Act, even though stock ponds are exempt from the federal law and he had obtained the necessary state and local permits.

In a settlement agreement announced Monday, Mr. Johnson agreed to plant willow trees and temporarily limit livestock access on a portion of the pond in what his attorneys described as “a win for the Johnson family and a win for the environment.”

Here’s part of the statement from Jonathan Wood, a staff attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation who represented Andy Johnson:

“This settlement is a win for the Johnson family, and a win for the environment,” said Wood. “Under it, the Johnsons will pay no fine. They will not lose their property. They will not have to agree to federal jurisdiction or a federal permit, which would have surely entailed onerous conditions. In effect, the government will treat the pond as an exempt stock pond, in exchange for Andy further improving on the environmental benefits he has already created.

Do you remember all the times we discussed the EPA’s efforts to further expand the Clean Water Act to apply to essentially every puddle and ditch in the country? It’s a fight which has been brewing ever since some of Barack Obama’s appointees cooked it up back in 2013. Under Gina McCarthy, the Environmental Protection Agency has been completely out of control, seeking to expand the agency’s control over virtually all activity which takes place on either dirt or water. (Read: the entire country.) But among all of the regulatory overreach which this administration has attempted, the expansion of the Clean Water Act is one of the boldest and most intrusive, while receiving far less media attention than their crippling of the energy industry.

Access to and use of public waterways impacts every aspect of life, and that applies to city dwellers as well as those in rural areas. Gina McCarthy would like to dig the government’s fingernails into every roadside culvert and wet sidewalk in the country, and without someone to push back against these schemes the way the Johnson Family and the Pacific Legal Foundation have, she’ll get away with it. We don’t just need a new, conservative president next year… we desperately require new blood in all of the cabinet departments, starting with the EPA.

StockPond