The John Duarte trial is starting and you should pay attention

Back in May we talked about the infuriating case of John Duarte. In case you missed it, he’s the California farmer who was being fined millions of dollars in a battle with the Army Corps of Engineers over alleged damage caused to “Waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. Such a description might lead you to believe that he was dumping heavy metals or fertilizer or something into the river and poisoning everyone. (You know… the way the EPA does with abandoned gold mines.) But it was nothing of the sort.

What Duarte had been doing was plowing his field and planting wheat. The field in question is located in a place where pools of standing water sometimes form during the wet season and later dry up. But those, at least under definitions cooked up during the Obama era, qualify as “Waters of the United States” and in order to “disturb” them Duarte would have needed to apply for a permit which would run him roughly a quarter million dollars. Having not done so, Uncle Sam would now like Duarte to pony up more than $15M.

The case has moved forward and the trial is about to begin. The Daily Caller has the details.

John Duarte and the Army Corps of Engineers will face off in court Tuesday, four years after the federal government fined Duarte millions for “deep[ly] ripping” shallow pools of water on his land.

Duarte has refused to pay a penalty of $2.8 million as well as purchase $13 million in “mitigation credits” to compensate for polluting the pools, protected as “waters of the U.S.” under the Clean Water Act, according to the Weekly Standard.

The dispute between Duarte and the Army Corps of Engineers rests on the definition of “normal farming” practices, exempted from needing a permit under the Clean Water Act.

In addition to distorting the meaning of “Waters of the United States” beyond any reasonable definition, this case is also challenging the use of the phrase, “normal farming practices.” Stop and think about that for a moment. The act of plowing a field is not, in the eyes of some in our government, considered a normal farming practice.

Duarte’s lawyer is trying to get the fine dropped to one dollar rather than a figure in the millions since Duarte was already found guilty. But that won’t matter anyway because he’s going to appeal as soon as this is over. It’s more of a matter of principle than the actual money (though I’m sure the farmer could use that also) and a question of whether or not there is any sanity or common sense left in the federal government or the judicial system. Sadly, unless there’s a way somebody in the Trump administration can derail this, his appeal would be going to the Ninth Circuit, which means he’s pretty much already lost because, well… the Ninth Circuit. So who knows? Perhaps this winds up at the Supreme Court where we can allow Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch to have a pass at it. (And no… I will never become tired of typing the phrase Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch.)

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Jazz Shaw 1:01 PM on April 01, 2023