Daniel J. Mitchell | Mar 20, 2014
Two years ago, I shared a video about the Environmental Protection Agency’s brutal and thuggish tactics against an Idaho family.
That story had a very happy ending because the Supreme Court struck a blow for property rights and unanimously ruled against the EPA (too bad that similarly sound analysis was absent when the Justices decided the Kelo case).
Now we have a new example of the EPA running amok
Let’s look at a horrifying report about another family in the cross hairs of a rogue bureaucracy.
All Andy Johnson wanted to do was build a stock pond on his sprawling eight-acre Wyoming farm. He and his wife Katie spent hours constructing it, filling it with crystal-clear water, and bringing in brook and brown trout, ducks and geese. It was a place where his horses could drink and graze, and a private playground for his three children.
Sounds like the American dream, but also responsible stewardship since ponds usually have a positive role in limiting erosion.
Unfortunately, the EPA’s pinhead bureaucrats saw an opportunity for pointless and destructive intervention.
But instead of enjoying the fruits of his labor, the Wyoming welder says he was harangued by the federal government, stuck in what he calls a petty power play by the Environmental Protection Agency. He claims the agency is now threatening him with civil and criminal penalties – including the threat of a $75,000-a-day fine. …The government says he violated the Clean Water Act by building a dam on a creek without a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. Further, the EPA claims that material from his pond is being discharged into other waterways. Johnson says he built a stock pond — a man-made pond meant to attract wildlife — which is exempt from Clean Water Act regulations. The property owner says he followed the state rules for a stock pond when he built it in 2012 and has an April 4-dated letter from the Wyoming State Engineer’s Office to prove it. …But the EPA isn’t backing down and argues they have final say over the issue. They also say Johnson needs to restore the land or face the fines.
As you can imagine, this was not exactly good news for the property owner.
Johnson says he was “bombarded by hopelessness” when he first received the administrative order from the EPA. …The EPA order on Jan. 30 gave Johnson 30 days to hire a consultant and have him or her assess the impact of the supposed unauthorized discharges. The report was also supposed to include a restoration proposal to be approved by the EPA as well as contain a schedule requiring all work be completed within 60 days of the plan’s approval. If Johnson doesn’t comply — and he hasn’t so far — he’s subject to $37,500 per day in civil penalties as well as another $37,500 per day in fines for statutory violations.
But kudos to Mr. Johnson. Unlike so many others, he’s not going to roll over and acquiesce to EPA brutishness.
Let’s now read about the thuggish actions against blueberry growers by the Department of Labor.
Bureaucrats from that entity decided to launch a legal jihad against some growers and they relied on bad numbers and grotesque strategy.
Another example of big government run amok.
In late July 2012, officials from the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division visited Pan-American Berry Growers, B&G Ditchen and E&S Farms for spot inspections. …the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour division district director, Jeff Genkos, accused the growers of minimum-wage violations and declared the blueberries “hot goods” under the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act. This charge is usually reserved for, say, T-shirts sewn by child laborers. The effect was to stop the fruit from being shipped to customers. He then ordered the growers to pay back wages and penalties and asked them to sign away any right to appeal the deal.
What was most shocking about the DOL’s actions is that they engaged in Mafia-type tactics and “made an offer they couldn’t refuse.”
This put the growers in an impossible spot. Either they could collectively pay $240,435 or let millions of dollars’ worth of berries rot. And they only had a day or two to make a decision. They did what any prudent employer would do: They paid the money, and the hot goods order was lifted.
And you won’t be surprised that the bureaucracy cooked the numbers in the first place.
It turns out that Labor’s bureaucrats had divined that the average worker could only pick around 60 pounds of blueberries an hour, some 30 pounds below what workers usually pick. They then counted the number of workers employed and concluded the growers must have had workers employed off the books. …In January, Oregon magistrate judge Thomas M. Coffin ruled for the growers. “In essence, to avoid the potential loss of millions of dollars worth of berries, defendants had to agree to the DOL’s allegations without an opportunity to present a defense or confront the DOL’s evidence in an administrative or court hearing,” he wrote.
I’m glad at least one court has ruled against the Department of Labor. Let’s hope that the final result is positive when all the appeals have been exhausted.
Both of these stories belong in my collection of “Government Thuggery in Action.”
Previous examples include:
- A story of vicious IRS persecution.
- A women jailed overnight because she let her kids play outside.
- Cops legally stole $17,000 from a man who committed no crime.
- Threatening to send a woman to jail because someone whistled at a whale.
- Two stories of innocent people who were victimized by the idiotic Drug War.
- A story about the Justice Department’s discriminatory attack on a hapless homeowner.
- The government treating child molesters more leniently than people who accidentally omit irrelevant info from forms.
- Bureaucrats in Indiana conducting a spite-motivated legal attack against a family that saved a baby deer.
- A local government in Virginia unfairly trying to destroy an organic farmer.
- Statists must dislike organic farms because Texas bureaucrats conducted a paramilitary raidon one of them
- Park Service bureaucrats threatening a business if it allowed tourists to use bathroom facilities.
- Last but not least, don’t forget all the nutty – and often thuggish – examples of anti-gun political correctness in schools.
If you peruse those examples without getting angry at big government, you probably need a lengthy bit of soul-searching.
If you’re a normal person, you’ll want this t-shirt (and don’t be a perv, just the t-shirt!).