Published to TLB via Off The Grid News.com
A 77-year old Montana resident is facing 15 years in federal prison for building ponds on and hear his own property, charged by the federal government for discharging dredged and fill material.
The man, disabled veteran Joseph Robertson, also could be fined around $750,000.
“I’m facing 15 years and three-quarters of a million in fines,” Robertson told the Billings Gazette. “What they’re doing to me, the feds, they shouldn’t have the ability to.”
Robertson is scheduled to be sentenced in federal court on July 20, charged with polluting “waters of the United States” and for violating the Clean Water Act.
He says he built the ponds — nine total — to water his horses and protect his property from fire.
The EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers contend Robertson violated the Act by building the ponds, which sit near a wetland. The government argues that the water should be regulated because it flows into Cataract Creek, and then into the Boulder River, and finally into the Jefferson River, which is about 60 miles away from his property.
Video credit: Gavin Seim
Although Robertson lost in a federal jury trial, which no doubt was chock full of expensive attorneys and EPA experts which few citizens could hope to overcome, there were still proponents on Robertson’s side who pointed out the true objective of the EPA.
“In our opinion, there were no measurable or quantitative adverse impacts to the aquatic ecosystem,” Ray Kagel Jr., a former wetlands regulator for the Corps of Engineer, said on Robertson’s behalf. Kagel spent 12 years with the Corps and now runs Kagel Environmental in Rigby, Idaho. Kagel also worked as a project manager for the EPA.
Kagel believes the EPA and the US attorney are simply trying to make an example of Robertson to justify their enforcement efforts.
“It’s kind of like a feather in the cap showing, ‘Wow, what a great job we are doing as an agency based on all these enforcement actions we’ve taken,’” Kagel said, according to The Gazette.
Kagel contends that Robertson did not violate the act because water flows underground for a mile from the ponds to Cataract Creek.
A similar case in Wyoming was filed against Andy Johnson, a young father who also built a stock pond on his property. The EPA threatened him with criminal and civil penalties, including a $37,500 fine per day, which would have continued to grow until the case actually came up to trial. It is easy to see why citizens will give up when contemplating such larceny by the government, though in this case, Johnson actually won his case.
While the EPA serves some valid functions, it is clear that it has outgrown its original purpose and is yet another example of an out-of-control government agency that is intent on growing its own power and control. It should be trimmed back to one tenth its current size, and clear limits should be set on its specific power and authority. That is not likely to happen, and it is representative of why the entire country is ruled by government elites that think they are a law unto themselves.
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