April 27, 2016

A Promising Development For Wyoming Rancher Andy Johnson

By A Promising Development For Wyoming Rancher Andy Johnson

Harold Johnson and Jonathan Wood revisit PLF’s defense of Andy Johnson, who felt the weight of the EPA’s overreach when he built an environmentally beneficial stock pond on his property in Wyoming. In 2012, Wyoming farmer Andy Johnson dammed a stream on his private property, creating a stock pond to provide water to his livestock.

The pond was constructed to maximize its incidental environmental benefits, including creating habitat for fish, wildlife, and migratory birds, establishing wetlands, and cleaning the water that passes through the pond. Nevertheless, in January, 2014, the EPA issued a compliance order against him, claiming that the deposit of dredge and fill materials to create the dam violates the CWA, and threatening him with fines of $37,500 per day that he doesn’t do what EPA demands.

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Johnson v. Environmental Protection Agency

Andy Johnson built a stock pond on his Wyoming property to provide safer, more reliable access to water for his small herd of cattle. More than the cows benefitted: The pond created wetlands, habitat for fish and wildlife, and cleans the water that passes through it. Nonetheless, the federal EPA accused Johnson of violating the Clean Water Act, demanded that he rip out the pond, and threatened him with fines of $37,500 per day if he did not comply. PLF represented Johnson in a lawsuit against the EPA because “stock ponds” are explicitly exempted from Clean Water Act jurisdiction. The government agreed to settle – the pond stays and Johnson pays no fine so long as he plants willows around the pond and builds temporary fencing to limit the cattle’s access.

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