Wyoming Makes it Illegal to Report Environmental Health Problems

Wyoming is so sick of meddling, do-good environmentalists trying to report public safety hazards to government agencies that they’ve had to take extreme measures. From now on, legislators have decided, it is illegal for citizens to collect evidence – including taking photos – of potential environmental infractions, reports Slate.

It’s a daft response to a larger problem, obviously. Rather than addressing the many environmental issues that arise, Wyoming has decided to effectively gag the people who try to bring attention to these eco-harms. Go figure that the state is willing to ignore companies that are carelessly putting citizens at risk while criminalizing those who want to increase public safety.

While the law can probably be attributed to a variety of factors, the most influential one is undoubtedly the cattle industry. Wyoming has a problem with cows excessively pooping in waterways, which contaminates the water with dangerous E. coli. Farmers are supposed to take responsibility for their cattle and ensure they aren’t spending much time by streams and the like, but more often than not, they just let the cattle roam unobstructed and the potentially fatal bacteria winds up in the public water supply anyway.

Because the cattle industry is so prominent in Wyoming, politicians apparently have decided to do them a solid by making it hard to prove any wrongdoing. Now it’s illegal for citizens to take water samples to hand over to government agencies or even photos of potential infractions for that matter. It’s not just an issue of trespassing on private property to collect data either. Ridiculously, it is illegal for citizens to document environmental hazards on public land, too!

The punishments are also ridiculous. Normally, a cattle farmer who lets his animals defecate in a public waterway might get a slap on the wrist, but now a citizen who tries to show proof that such a thing is occurring will face a maximum of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. That fine is increased to $5,000 for subsequent offences.

The law even makes sure that selfless activists who are willing to suffer the consequences for the greater public good won’t win. While a private citizen’s photos and water samples can be used as evidence to show that he or she broke this particular bogus law, it is automatically inadmissible in a case against the actual polluters. Yeah, that seems real fair…

With any luck, the law will be contested in court and eventually squashed. After all, the legislation flies in the face of the Clean Water Act. The federal decree actually encourages everyday Americans to participate in the process of holding polluters accountable by collecting samples. Wyoming’s “stay out of it!” approach not only does the opposite, it likely obstructs citizens’ First Amendment rights to document and discuss the environmental issues they encounter.

We often hear the phrase “If you see something, say something” from our own government. Clearly, the government would prefer this remain a fear tactic rather than something used to hold private interests accountable. Cow poop might not be “terrorism,” but an E. coli outbreak could be just as much a threat to the people of Wyoming, so why should telling the government about a potential hazard be deemed a crime?

Photo credit: Thinkstock

229 comments

Gerald L.
Gerald L2 years ago

For a Wyoming Rancher if there is a Pipeline Leak on his land is it illegal to report it?



If they Frack there and it contaminates a water well he uses for domestic use and watering livestock is he under a Gag Order to Not Report it?



If the poisonous gases from Flare Stacks are killing his livestock and making his family sick does he keep his dirty sock in his mouth and remain silent?



Shit flows downstream and anyone whose Water Quality is affected has the right file Court Motions or Lawsuits I would think. I am not a lawyer but this only seems reasonable.



Has anyone considered using Long Range Drones for surveillance?

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Gerald L.
Gerald L2 years ago

Lets compare this to Flint Michigan where a Government Office has had bottled water long before the citizens were warned about the High Lead Levels in their drinking water.



This is so Criminally Negligent in Flints case all it takes is a Reconnection to the Detroit Water Supply. So what is it close one valve and open another? Or remove a Pipe Blank out of the line from Detroit?

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Christopher P.
Christopher P2 years ago

How did that happen???

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Christopher P.
Christopher P2 years ago

So if it should not be illegal to take a picture of a toad suffering from pollution, should it not be illegal to take a picture of a live aborted fetus gasping for air? Just asking...

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Peter O.
Peter O.2 years ago

So if it should not be illegal to take a picture of a toad suffering from pollution, should it not be illegal to take a picture of a live aborted fetus gasping for air? Just asking...

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Gerald L.
Gerald L3 years ago

Dianne D. If your avatar is a cat, where does it's meat source come from?

Ref:10:58pm PDT on May 25, 2015
I hate the cattle industry. I haven't eaten beef for over 20 years. If you eat beef, then you are supporting this cruel industry.

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Vicky P.
Vicky P3 years ago

terrible

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Dianne D.
Dianne D3 years ago

I hate the cattle industry. I haven't eaten beef for over 20 years. If you eat beef, then you are supporting this cruel industry.

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Gene Lockard
Gene Lockard3 years ago

This law is totally absurd, and the legislators who brought it are unconscionable, sick, warped and depraved. If anyone gets deathly ill from E. coli bacteria because of this "law," I hope it is those who conceived and passed it. I'm sure the federal law will overturn it; I imagine there must be quite an outcry from residents in Wyoming who aren't in the cattle industry. In the meantime, let the rest of the country see an example of conservative governing at its finest. I hope the whole country becomes vegetarian.

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