CASPER — A Wyoming man who became a poster child for what some saw as environmental overreach visited the White House for the signing of two executive orders by President Trump intended to “improve the transparency and fairness of government agencies,” the White House said.
Uinta County’s Andy Johnson, who rose to prominence for his legal battle with the Environmental Protection Agency over a pond he had built on his property, was a special guest of the president during a Wednesday news conference in Washington, D.C.
According to prepared remarks by the president, the orders are intended to end persecution of private citizens who often learn of the rules only when “federal agents come knocking on their door.” Regulatory overreach, Trump said, is often carried out by bureaucrats with an agenda whose actions are subject to little accountability.
“A permanent bureaucracy cannot become a fourth branch of government unanswerable to American voters,” said Trump. “In America, voters must always reign.”
The executive orders, among other steps, will make EPA guidance documents more easily accessible while also creating a grievance procedure for small businesses and property owners to appeal violations. The orders also instruct agencies to correspond directly with individuals and businesses so people looking to comply with the law “can learn how,” the White House said.
For the Trump administration, Johnson, who was acknowledged by the president during the press conference, was a perfect victim. In 2014, the EPA wrote him saying a cow pond he had built on his land and connected to a nearby creek violated the Clean Water Act. It said he would be fined up to $37,500 for every day the pond stayed.
Johnson’s ensuing battle with the federal government culminated in a lawsuit against the EPA and caused a firestorm in the press, earning write-ups from such news outlets as The New York Times.
Johnson eventually settled his suit against the federal government, writing in a blog post following the ruling “this is a huge victory for us as well as private property owners across the country.”