​EPA Wyoming Pond Settlement For Rancher Seeking Property Rights

EPA Wyoming pond settlement over $16 million in fines.
Author: Jennifer HongBy:
Staff Reporter
May. 12, 2016

The EPA-Wyoming pond has caused a lot of problems for Fort Bridger rancher Andy Johnson after he was faced with a list of fines totaling $16 million. The latest update on the matter came after the Pacific Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit in 2015 on behalf of rancher Andy Johnson seeking to vindicate his property rights.

The EPA lawsuit explained federal law clearly exempts stock ponds in Wyoming from the federal rules, which had filed a compliance checklist order against him threatening $37,500 in fines per day - which already at the time of the filing had passed $16 million, FOX News reports. Now, officials the PLF has announced the federal government has agreed to resolve the case, and a federal court has approved.

“Importantly, under the settlement, the Johnson family’s pond will remain; they won’t pay any fines; they don’t concede any federal jurisdiction to regulate their pond; and the government won’t pursue any further enforcement actions based on the pond’s construction,” the legal team said about the EPA-Wyoming pond lawsuit.

“This is a victory for common sense and the environment, and it brings an end to all the uncertainty and fear that the Johnson family faced,” said Jonathan Wood, a staff attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation. The fight began in 2013 when Johnson, under a legitimate state permit, built the stock pond to provide safer, more reliable access to water for his small herd, the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle News reported.

Ray Kagel, a former federal regulator, explained how the pond proved to be a benefit to the environment in Wyoming. It created wetlands, habitat for fish and wildlife, and cleans the water that passes through it. The EPA responded with its threats of fines.

Johnson tried to reason with the EPA-Wyoming pond dispute, without success, so he filed the action that points out “stock ponds” are expressly exempted from the Clean Water Act in Wyoming.

“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.

“The settlement provides that Andy will plant willows around the pond and temporarily fence off part of it from livestock. Of course, there is some irony in this last provision: The EPA insists this isn’t a stock pond, while their chief concern is how livestock reach it.”

Johnson, told the Billings Gazette what he thought of the EPA-Wyoming pond settlement. “This is a huge victory for us as well as private property owners across the country. The next family that finds itself in our situation, facing ominous threats from EPA, can take heart in knowing that many of these threats will not come to pass. If, like us, you stand up to the overreaching bureaucrats, they may very well back down,” t

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