A California farmer fined $2.8 million for plowing through vernal pools protected by the Clean Water Act without a permit is appealing to the Trump administration for help, according to California’s Record Spotlight.
John Duarte has sent letters to Agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue, as well as Attorney General Jeff Sessions seeking clarification on the federal government’s case against him, the Record Spotlight reports.
While the Clean Water Act protects “waters of the U.S.,” it does contain exemptions for farmers.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers fined Duarte Nursery, owned by Duarte, in 2012 for failing to get a permit before plowing through vernal pools located on a recently purchased 450 acre plot of land. The vernal pools, temporary bodies of water that house certain species of plants and animals, are protected as waters of the United States by the Clean Water Act of 1972. (RELATED: Feds Fine Farmer $2.8 Million For ‘Deep Ripping’ Of Farmland)
“We expected the Trump administration to provide regulatory relief from Obama-era overreach, and we haven’t seen it yet,” Duarte said according to the Record Spotlight. “We’re hoping to see the administration engage this issue, to look at it again.”
House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conway and House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte sided with Duarte, sending a letter to Sessions May 26 questioning the merit of the Duarte case. (RELATED: Ag Chairman Demands DOJ Drop $2.8 Million Case Against Farmer)
“The prosecution of Mr. Duarte raises concerns that the Congressional intent behind the farming exemptions in the statute is misunderstood,” the letter said. “Specifically, it is the Agriculture Committee’s view that even occasional farm activities, including grazing, qualify as ‘normal’ farming under the statutory exemption, and also are part of an established operation for purposes of the exemption. Further, it is the Committee’s view that the activity at issue in this case constitutes plowing for the purposes of the exemption.”
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