The case of John Duarte and the EPA

By JOHN M. DERBY
Times Publisher
June 22, 2017

The case should not be against John Duarte, but against the United States of America and the Environmental Protection Agency which continues to enforce crazy laws.
Duarte, a local farmer, was planting a wheat crop in Tehama County about five years ago and the Environmental Protection Agency accused him of violating The Clean Water Act of 2012, which according to authorities prohibited him from “deep ripping” his land so it could be used for farming.
The EPA took him to court and he was fined $2.8 million for harming wetlands which were protected. He was also required to return the farmland to what it was prior to the time he plowed it. It had previously been plowed 24 year before, so it was not virgin land.
Duarte wants Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, to give testimony in the case because when he spoke at his Senate Confirmation Hearing, Pruitt termed the type of fines which Duarte received as “government wrongly punishing farmers for doing their jobs.”
The U.S. Justice Department, which is involved in the case, is saying that Scott Pruitt should not be allowed to testify because he has no firsthand knowledge of the case and the Justice Department states that top governmental officials usually cannot be forced to testify in court in such cases.
The case is being heard by the U.S. District Court in Sacramento and a pretrial hearing on the case was scheduled last week.
Duarte and his lawyers at the Pacific Legal Foundation in Sacramento say Pruitt’s testimony could be vital to the case and all similar cases where farmers have been refused full use of their property with no real evidence that the use is going to damage the environment.
It is not the first case which has made a major impact on the area. When UC Merced was given the land for the new university by the Virginia Smith Trust, the campus site was proposed for the back side of Lake Yosemite.
That was when environmentalists found the “fairy shrimp” which people knew very little about. It was on the endangered species list even though no one had ever tried to count the number of fairy shrimp or even determine the wide range where the shrimp existed.
The legal suits eventually brought a halt to all construction on the site, and the university had to be moved to the small golf course where it still sits waiting to grow outside those bounds.
In our estimation the EPA and Corps of Engineers have far overreached the bounds of good common sense. They represent a case where “Big Government” has been allowed to overrule state government as well as local government.
It is no wonder that local farmers as well as educational institutions like UC Merced are fed up with the rulings which cost them thousands of dollars with nothing in return.


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