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Wyoming Man Concludes His Victory Over EPA

Jan 19, 2018 | by William Perry Pendley

Andy Johnson, represented by Mountain States Legal Foundation and who faced exorbitant fines for building a pond on his property, ended his suit against the Environmental Protection Agency.

DENVER, CO.  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.  Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF), a nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation, joined in filing the necessary documents to end the consent decree entered into in 2016 between Mr. Johnson and the EPA in Wyoming federal district court and to conclude Mr. Johnson’s lawsuit against the agency.  Mr. Johnson sued after receiving a Compliance Order from the EPA on January 30, 2014, demanding he remove a dam and stock pond he built and engage in costly restoration of his land under a threat of civil and criminal penalties, including fines of at least $37,500 for each day of “non-compliance.”  Mr. Johnson contends his land is not under federal jurisdiction, and even if it were, the pond is exempt from federal regulation.  The EPA’s actions against Mr. Johnson was the subject of extensive, nationwide, media coverage featuring MSLF, including by Fox News.

“The EPA’s brazen attempt to intimidate a good man is at an end at last,” said William Perry Pendley, president of MSLF and a Wyoming native.  “We kept our promise to Andy.”

Andrew Johnson owns a small farm where they grow hay and raise horses and cattle.  In 2010, Mr. Johnson applied for and received a permit from Wyoming’s 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.

MSLF is co-counsel with Pacific Legal Foundation of California.

Mountain States Legal Foundation, created in 1977, is a nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation dedicated to individual liberty, the right to own and use property, limited and ethical government, and the free enterprise system.  Its offices are in suburban Denver, Colorado.

For more information:  Johnson v. Environmental Protection Agency

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