How One Wyoming Rancher Fought the EPA and Won

May 23, 2016 05:00 AM
How One Wyoming Rancher Fought the EPA and Won

Andy Johnson lives with his wife and kids on nine acres in Wyoming. A few years ago he wanted to build a stock pond for his horses and cows, and to give his kids a place to fish. He went through all the necessary state paperwork and obtained the permits he needed. Johnson even worked with a consultant to ensure the best design possible, certain he had followed all the necessary steps to build his pond.

“We thought we were 100% in the right, so we went ahead and did the project,” Johnson says. “It worked out very well.”

The Army Corps of Engineers thought differently. After receiving a tip from Johnson’s neighbor, the Army Corps called Johnson and told him he might be in violation of the Clean Water Act. Johnson invited them out to take a look.

He says they came out and looked at the project, but could never tell the Johnsons if they were truly in violation or not. Then Army Corps of Engineers turned the case over to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who sent an agent to the Johnsons’ property to assess the situation.

“A gentleman named Richard Clark came into our house,” Johnson says. “He said, ‘This is a really serious matter. You’re going to have to dig really deep and spend a lot of money to prove you are not in violation.’”

About three months later, the Johnsons received an administrative order in the mail threatening a fine of $37,500 per day over the completed project. The agency wanted the Johnsons to rip out the stock pond, hire a consultant to revise a new plan, and submit it within ten days.

“I knew the minute that I got the administrative order it was wrong,” Johnson says. “I told my wife we aren’t going to do this. It would have costs us $50,000 to $70,000 to do what they wanted us to do, going through a consultant and all the hoops to rip the pond out.”

The Johnsons decided to fight back and in the end, they won. Listen to the clip below to learn how they did it.

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Spell Check

Dale tauer
Morgan , MN
5/23/2016 07:52 AM

  More farmers/ranchers need to be aware of what the Feds are doing with the clean water act. This is our tax dollars at work with an out of control group of government authorities empowered by this administration. We need more people like the Johnsn family to stand up for property rights

Shelley Powers
O Fallon, MO
5/23/2016 08:10 PM

  They did not win. If they won, they wouldn't have had to mitigate their effort, and their attorneys would have received attorney fees. As it is, they still have to answer to the state for misrepresenting their permit application.

5/23/2016 07:10 AM

  The EPA as an entity or concept is a great thing. It's one of the best agencies created in this country. The problem, like any organization, including farm organizations, is the human element. The over bearing, over zealous EPA representative who interprets the regs incorrectly. Or, on the other side the paranoid farm groups who thinks the government is out to get them or are over reaching it's authority. Believe me there's issues on both sides of this fence! In this case the EPA was in the wrong and the courts settled it. Thank goodness the individual stood up for his rights and won. However, as has been clearly documented many times, we've seen where the EPA has been in the right. And thanks to the EPA, many dead bodies of water and smog filled skies are cleaned and cleared!