The Environmental Protection Agency received a "welcome rebuke" in a Monday court settlement that the GOP says shines a light on the agency's far-reaching agenda.
Andy Johnson, a Wyoming land owner, sued the EPA after it began fining him nearly $200,000 a day for building a pond on his property.
The EPA and Johnson settled the dispute Monday night without going to trial, freeing him from a $16 million fine. His lawyers said the EPA had no grounds to enforce the Clean Water Act for the pond he constructed to water his livestock.
"This settlement is a welcome rebuke of an agency that has gone too far," said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., one of the leading congressional voices against the EPA. "In the Senate, I will continue to work to block these kinds of regulatory assaults."
"It shouldn't have come to this," Barrasso said. "Local land-use decisions should never be driven by Washington, and the EPA should never be able to fine someone millions of dollars for building a pond on their own land."
The conservative Pacific Legal Foundation, the law firm that represented Johnson, welcomed the decision as much-needed vindication of the law, individual rights and the environment.
"This settlement is a win for the Johnson family and a win for the environment," said Jonathan Wood, Johnson's lead attorney. "Under it, the Johnsons will pay no fine. They will not lose their property. They will not have to agree to federal jurisdiction or a federal permit, which would have surely entailed onerous conditions.
"In effect, the government will treat the pond as an exempt stock pond, in exchange for Andy further improving on the environmental benefits he has already created," Wood said.
Johnson will have to plant willows around the pond and temporarily fence off part of it from livestock, Wood said.
"This is a huge victory for us as well as private property owners across the country," Johnson said. "The next family that finds itself in our situation, facing ominous threats from EPA, can take heart in knowing that many of these threats will not come to pass. If, like us, you stand up to the overreaching bureaucrats, they may very well back down."