Mountain States Legal Foundation Logo

Active Cases

Limited and Ethical Government Legal Cases

Since its creation in 1977, MSLF has been one of the Nation's leading legal centers fighting to ensure that the federal government remains a limited government and a government of laws and not men and women. MSLF recognizes that the Constitution was written, not to protect the various units or levels of government, but to preserve the liberty of the American people. MSLF is committed to ensuring that they continue to have that freedom and opportunity.

Johnson v. Environmental Protection Agency

Why We Fight:

The federal government has no authority over the right of a landowner to build a stock pond on his property consistent with a state-issued permit.

Summary:

A Wyoming landowner built a stock pond on his private property in accordance with a state permit.  Nonetheless, the EPA issued a compliance order commanding him to remove the stock pond and threatened him with fines of up to $37,500 per day.

Legal Question:

Whether a landowner may be fined thousands of dollars a day under the Clean Water Act (CWA) by damming a creek—for the construction of a stock pond—that has no conceivable connection to any navigable waters and when the CWA exempts the construction of stock ponds?

Plaintiff:

Andy Johnson

Defendants:

United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); and Gina McCarthy, in her official capacity as Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency

Court:

U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming
None - MSLF's victory for its client Andy Johnson is complete!

Andrew and Katie Johnson own a small farm near Fort Bridger in southwestern Wyoming where they grow hay and raise horses and cattle.  In 2010, Mr. Johnson applied for and received a permit from the Wyoming State Engineer to build a stock pond to water his horses and cattle.  From 2010 to 2013, he built a 1,275-foot by 170-foot pond by damming Six Mile Creek, which now flows through his stock pond.

In 2013, the Johnsons were visited by two Army Corps of Engineers compliance officers who took measurements of the stock pond, asserted that the creek was within federal jurisdiction as “waters of the United States,” and said Mr. Johnson was required to apply for a permit before building the pond.  The officers did not take water samples, measure the amount of dredged or fill material discharged into Six Mile Creek, or provide Mr. Johnson with any information regarding permit requirements or the application process.

In May of 2013, the EPA sent Mr. Johnson a letter asserting that he may have violated the Clean Water Act (CWA), by discharging dredged and fill material into Six Mile Creek without a Corps of Engineers permit.  He met with the Wyoming State Engineer, an attorney, and a regulatory compliance consultant.  Shortly thereafter, Mr. Johnson and his attorney participated in a conference call with the State Engineer’s Office, and federal officials who said they would contact Mr. Johnson on the next steps.  They never did.                  

On January 30, 2014, the EPA issued a Compliance Order against Mr. Johnson, demanding that he remove the dam and stock pond he built and engage in costly restoration under a threat of civil and criminal penalties, including fines of at least $37,500 for each day of “non-compliance.”  Mr. Johnson argues that his land is not under federal jurisdiction, and even if it were, the stock pond is exempt from federal regulation.

On August 27, 2015, assisted by local counsel in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Mr. Johnson sued the EPA.  On September 21, 2015, pursuant to its earlier agreement with Mr. Johnson, MSLF entered the lawsuit.  MSLF and Pacific Legal Foundation of Sacramento, California serve as co-counsels to Mr. Johnson.

On May 9, 2016, the Wyoming federal district court issued an order approving the consent decree entered into between the United States and Andy Johnson and the case was dismissed.

  • Wyoming Man Concludes His Victory Over EPA

    Jan 19, 2018
    Andy Johnson of Fort Bridger, represented by a western, public-interest legal foundation with years of experience defending property owners, westerners, and the Wyoming people, today ended his five-year battle with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect his property rights.
  • Western Law Firm with Wyoming Roots Wins for Wyomingite

    May 9, 2016
    A western, public-interest legal foundation with years of experience defending property owners, westerners, and the Wyoming people today announced a court approved victory for a Fort Bridger, Wyoming man who sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect his property rights.
  • Western Law Firm with Wyoming Roots Aids Wyomingite

    Nov 2, 2015
    A western, public-interest legal foundation with years of experience defending property owners, westerners, and the Wyoming people today announced its legal representation of a Fort Bridger, Wyoming man who sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect his property rights.


Help protect constitutional liberties and private property rights, and promote limited and ethical government and the free enterprise system:

Donate Here