Environmentalists Say EPA’s $1.1 Million Fine Against Farmer Wasn’t Enough

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Tim Pearce Energy Reporter
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The environmental group Clean Water Action wants the Department of Justice to reject a settlement deal with a California farmer fined for violating the Clean Water Act (CWA), according to a Wednesday letter from the group.

John Duarte was fined by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2013 for plowing over vernal pools, or small seasonal ponds, on land Duarte purchased the previous year. Vernal pools are protected as “waters of the U.S.” under the CWA, according to USA Today.

Duarte sued the Army Corps of Engineers, saying his plowing was legal under the exception for farming built into the CWA. He settled the suit in August 2017, admitting no guilt but agreeing to pay $330,000 in civil penalties and buy $770,000 in vernal pool mitigation credits.

“This is significantly lower than the penalties and mitigation credits sought and justified by the Department of Justice throughout the case,” the Clean Water Action letter states.

“Clean Water Action urges DOJ to seek penalties and mitigation credits from Duarte consistent [sic] previously sought levels of $2,800,000 in civil penalties and mitigation credits of between 66 and 132 acres of wetlands (valued at approximately $15-30,000,000),” the letter continues. “Failure to seek these appropriate remedies is a failure to enforce the Clean Water Act.”

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