A Wyoming rancher is taking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to court in a bid to challenge a fine of more than $16 million.
Andy Johnson was informed by the EPA in 2012 that the pond he constructed did not comply with the federal Clean Water Act, according to The Blaze.
After Johnson refused to comply, the EPA said in a January 2014 notice it would fine him $37,500 per day if the pond was not removed, the Wyoming Tribune reports.
“We went through all the hoops that the state of Wyoming required, and I'm proud of what we built,” Johnson told Fox News. “The EPA ignored all that.”
Johnson further argues that it would have been impossible to remove the pond and return the property to its original state within the 30-day time frame the EPA gave him, even if he had wanted to.
On Thursday morning, he spoke in front of the Wyoming State Capitol after filing a federal lawsuit against the EPA.
“My family depends on me, and when the EPA came into my life, they didn't just attack me, they attacked our family and our home,” Johnson said, according to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. “We've told them time and time and time again that it's exempt, here's the facts, and they've basically ignored it.”
Johnson has hired the public interest law firm Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) to handle the case.
“The Clean Water Act expressly exempts stock ponds from its reach; the EPA has no business regulating it,” PLF attorney Jonathan Wood said. “In the year and a half [Johnson has] spent trying to explain to them that they've overreached, his fines are already approaching $20 million.”
Wood added that the water coming out of the pond was actually cleaner than that going in, according to independent tests.
Another lawyer on the case said the EPA conducted its assessment on the pond from an office and had not visited the location.
"They did what's called a 'desktop determination,'" attorney Dan Frank of Frank Law Office said. "Had they ever gone out, they'd have found it dead-ends in a canal, and it doesn't ever reach any navigable waters of the United States.
“We're bringing this action for a judge to tell the EPA that, number one, they don't have jurisdiction. And number two, this is an exempt stock pond, and the desktop speculation and heavy-handed regulation that have resulted are not going to fly in Wyoming.”
The EPA has not yet commented on the lawsuit, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported.