When the Environmental Protection Agency decided to go after Andy Johnson, they probably did not believe they were throwing a rock at a hornet’s nest. Since the story broke last week that the EPA is threatening Johnson, a welder who lives with his family on an 8-acre plot near Fort Bridger, with $75,000 a day in fines for constructing a pond on his property that is supplied by a small creek, the uproar has gone nationwide. As Johnson points out, if his pond—a pristine home to wild fish and source of clean water for his horses—is in any way a hazard to the environment, what isn’t?
But this is just business as usual at the EPA. They lost the Sackett case two years ago, meaning their administrative overreach can be quickly challenged in court, but that does not mean they won’t keep reaching. After all, if the EPA can’t get people with fines they’ll at least rack up their legal fees. Bankrupt a small landowner, shock-and-awe the entire surrounding region into fear of the EPA’s power, maybe set a precedent to put even the smallest creeks in the EPA’s jurisdiction… all in a day’s work!
It’s this kind of thuggery that led the Wyoming Senate to pass this year’s Senate File 75 unanimously 30-0, followed by a 54-4 (with 2 excused) vote in the House. Among the bill’s legislative findings is the following:
Current rulemaking and other actions of the federal environmental protection agency have severely impacted the ability of the state and its citizens to prudently develop the state’s natural resources;
The new law (which went into effect when Governor Mead signed it on March 10), gives the Wyoming Attorney General and the Governor broad power to challenge the EPA:
The attorney general may seek to take action before the federal environmental protection agency or in any state or federal court to stop the enforcement, administration or implementation of rulemaking or other actions taken by that agency if, in his judgment, the rulemaking or other action exceeds the authority granted by the United States congress or otherwise rests on questionable authority. Before intervening in or initiating any lawsuit pursuant to this section, the attorney general shall obtain the approval of the governor.
Well, around a week after the bill became law, the time is already right!
Johnson has been in contact with the Governor’s office, and I hope the AG is seriously looking into his case under this new authority. There won’t be a better case than this one when it comes to the average Wyomingite.
In the meantime, I hope Andy Johnson keeps speaking out, that the outpouring of support does not wane, and that the EPA feels a little Romanesque shock-and-awe itself. I would like to see useless federal bureaucracies like this dismantled entirely, but for now I’ll settle for a simple course correction that would force the EPA to focus on real environmental problems and leave the rest of us alone.