Andy Johnson is a hard working welder and all he wanted was to have a pond on his 8 acre Wyoming farm. Unfortunately for him, after hours of construction and stocking it with various types of fish, the pond he built as a playground for his kids and as a place where his horses could graze is under attack by the EPA.
According to Fox News the man is being harassed in a major way by the government, and he has no plans on backing down any time soon.
Johnson says that now rather than being able to enjoy his pond with his family, he's been stuck in a "petty power play" by the Environmental Protection Agency who is now threatening him with civil and criminal penalties - including a possible $75,000 a day fine for non-compliance.
“I have not paid them a dime nor will I,” a defiant Johnson told FoxNews.com. “I will go bankrupt if I have to fighting it. My wife and I built [the pond] together. We put our blood, sweat and tears into it. It was our dream.”
According to the EPA, Johnson violated its Clean Water Act and didn't obtain a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers prior to building a dam or a creek, they're also trying to say that material from his pond is contaminating other waterways.
However Johnson says that what he built is a stock pond, and that because it's a man-made pond meant to attract wildlife it doesn't fall under the scrutiny of the Clean Water act. He also says that he followed all state and local regulations when he built the pond back in 2012 and even has a letter from the Wyoming State Engineers to prove his case.
The letter to Johnson, dated April 4, says that “Said permit is in good standing and is entitled to be exercised exactly as permitted."
He has no plans on backing down from the bullies at the EPA, even though they're claiming to have the final say over the pond and told him that if he doesn't restore the land to how it was he'll face the fines.
“This goes a lot further than a pond,” he said. “It’s about a person’s rights. I have three little kids. I am not going to roll over and let [the government] tell me what I can do on my land. I followed the rules.”
Because of his frustrations, the homeowner contacted state lawmakers who in turn were able to get the two Senators from Wyoming to take action on his behalf.
John Barrasso and Mike Enzi, along with Louisiana Sen. David Vitter penned a letter on March 12 to the EPA's acting assistant administrator for water, Nancy Stoner, demanding the EPA withdraw their order.
According to Fox News "The EPA order on Jan. 30 gave Johnson 30 days to hire a consultant and have him or her assess the impact of the supposed unauthorized discharges. The report was also supposed to include a restoration proposal to be approved by the EPA as well as contain a schedule requiring all work be completed within 60 days of the plan's approval.
"If Johnson doesn’t comply -- and he hasn't so far -- he’s subject to $37,500 per day in civil penalties as well as another $37,500 per day in fines for statutory violations."
The letter from the EPA questioned the EPA's "heavy handed" tactics and questioned the assumption of guilt by the agency.
“Rather than a sober administration of the Clean Water Act, the Compliance Order reads like a draconian edict of a heavy-handed bureaucracy,” it said.
“Fairness and due process require the EPA base its compliance order on more than an assumption,” they wrote. “Instead of treating Mr. Johnson as guilty until he proves his innocence by demonstrating his entitlement to the Clean Water Act section 404 (f)(1)(C) stock pond exemption, EPA should make its case that a dam was built and that the Section 404 exemption does not apply.”
Their letter also called into question the EPA's proposed rule changes to how it defines a body of water and what jurisdiction it would have over it.
“If the compliance order stands as an example of how EPA intends to operate after completing its current ‘waters of the United States’ rulemaking, it should give pause to each and every landowner throughout the country,” it said.
Johnson said he won't be backing down anytime soon and according to the EPA they don't intend on withdrawing the order.