A rancher is taking the Environmental Protection Agency to federal court, asking a judge to stop the agency from fining him more than $16 million because he built a small pond on his property.
Andy Johnson of Fort Bridger, Wyoming says he made sure to get the proper permits from his state government before building the pond. After all, this is America in the 21st century, and nothing done on your own property — certainly when it involves the use of water — is beyond government concern.
Johnson is facing millions in fines from the federal government after the EPA determined his small pond — technically a “stock pond” to provide better access to water for animals on his ranch — is somehow violating the federal Clean Water Act.
“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.”
In a compliance order, the EPA told Johnson he had to return his property — under federal oversight — to conditions before the stock pond was built. When he refused to comply, the EPA tagged Johnson with a fines of $37,000 per day.
Dismantling the pond within the 30-day window the EPA originally gave him was “physically impossible,” Johnson said.
That was in 2012. Today, Johnson owes the federal government more than $16 million, and the amount is growing as he tries to fight back.
In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court on Thursday, lawyers representing Johnson argue the EPA overstepped its authority by fining the rancher.