Nation of Criminals: Build Your Own Pond, Face $20 Million in Penalties or Even Prison
- [Paul] In 2011, AndyJohnson obtained all the
necessary governmentpaperwork before building this
stock pond on his eightacre ranch in Wyoming.
- He worked with the state,the local government,
got all the sign offs heneeded, and created a pond
in his front yard.
- [Andy] And since we've builtthe stock pond, not only does
our live stock benefit fromit, but we've had eagles,
we've had blue heron.
- [Paul] Former federalregulator, Ray Kagel JR
insists the pondbenefited the environment.
- It had the added benefitof creating quite a bit of
nice habitat for fisheries,wildlife, waterfowl,
and wetlands, in general,
that were created because of the pond.
- [Paul] Johnson says, iteven filtered the water
from Six Mile Creek that hewas using, and made it cleaner.
- But none of that was goodenough for the Army Corp
of Engineers, or theEnvironmental Protection Agency.
The EPA demanded that Johnsondismantle the pond in 30 days,
in the dead of Wyomingwinter, or face serious fines.
Because, they said he'ddone serious wrong.
Jonathan Wood of thePacific Legal Foundation,
- He should've askedtheir permission first,
and for having not doneso, they demanded he remove
the environmentally beneficial pond,
or pay up to $20 millionin potential fines.
- The EPA has came in andthreatened to take everything
that we've ever known.
- [Paul] More than hismoney was on the line.
- Almost every environmentalstatute includes
criminal provisions,so you could go to jail
and face criminal fines forthings that most of us take for
granted on our ownproperty, like moving dirt
from one place to another.
- [Paul] The potential fineswere about $37,500 a day,
and piled up into the millionsbecause Johnson ended up
in a long hard fight against the feds.
- We've suffered many sleepless nights.
We're still fighting the battle.
- [Paul] Johnson and hislawyer's announced in 2015
they were suing thegovernment over its treatment
of the Johnson family.
- And seeing what the EPAis doing to this family,
it made me so angry.
- How much power do we want to give
unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats?
- [Paul] Wyoming's twosenators wrote the EPA,
"The compliance order readslike a Draconian edict of a
- It's just devastating tothink that our government,
the country that we livein, that I work so hard
and pay taxes to, is now attacking us.
- I think the thing thatpeople connect with in
the Andy Johnson story is,he's just like all of us.
He was doing something thatmost of us would probably
do on our own property,without even thinking about.
And for doing that, thegovernment threaten to ruin
his life, and his family's life.
- [Paul] The bureaucratsaccuse Johnson of violating
the Clean Water Act, andpotentially affecting
navigable waters theybelieved, Six Mile Creek fed.
- Someone went to thecomputer on their desk,
pulled up Google Maps,and based just on that,
accused this man of violating the law.
- [Paul] Wyoming attorneyDan Frank points out
how they made mistakesin reading the maps.
Had they ever gone out,they would've found that it
dead ends in the canaland it doesn't ever reach
a navigable water of the United States.
- [Paul] By just going by the map,
they also mistook how the creek flowed.
- They assumed the waterwas flowing uphill.
If they had gone up andlooked at the property
they would've found the water'sgoing the other direction.
- The only thing that makessense, from my experience
as a former federal regulator, is that
the government quite often,in my own personal experience,
does thing that don't make sense.
- [Paul] Given the mistakeshis team uncovered,
Johnson felt compelled tofight for as long as it took.
- I decided that I wasnot going to tolerate our
government telling us exactlywhat we can and can't do
on our private property.
- [Paul] Ultimately, Johnsonand his legal team won.
The EPA backed down,and gave up the fight.
Wyoming senator John Barrassowrote after the government
caved, "This settlement is awelcome rebuke of an agency
"that has gone too far."
- The government hasincredible leverage over you.
They can ruin your life, andruin your family's future
if you don't do whatever they say.
That's why it was extremelybrave of him, to fight back
and say, "No, you've exceeded your power,
"I haven't done anything wrong."
- In the end, the EPA didn'tget even $1 from Johnson,
and the pond still exists, stillbenefiting the environment.
Which you'd think theEnvironmental Protection Agency
Paul Strand, CBN News,reporting from outside the EPA