Congress questions EPA about Andy Johnson’s stock pond

Several weeks ago, the New York Times ran a front page article about the Andy Johnson’s stock pond and the EPA compliance order threatening him with more than $16 million in fines. Here’s a taste: The sun was sinking and … Continue reading

Another Clean Water Act power grab for the Court to consider

Last Friday, the Supreme Court extended the deadline for the American Farm Bureau Federation to file a petition for certiorari in its case challenging the EPA’s interpretation of the Total Maximum Daily Load or “TMDL” provision of the Clean Water … Continue reading

Road to the Supreme Court: PLF’s Todd Gaziano on MSNBC’s “GREENHOUSE” Thursday to talk about Kent and Hawkes

Todd Gaziano, Executive Director of PLF’s DC Center joined Tony Dokoupil, host of MSNBC’s GREENHOUSE to talk about two important environmental cases that PLF hopes the Supreme Court will grant review. [MORE: Clean Water Act case gets another boost in … Continue reading

The lesson of the Animas River spill

In the Wall Street Journal, attorney and former high-ranking EPA official Bill Wehrum has an op-ed [$] arguing that the Animas River spill shouldn’t lead to criminal punishment, but neither should similar accidents caused by private companies. As you’ll undoubtedly … Continue reading

President’s weekly report — September 4, 2015

Endangered Species Act:  Delist the Kangaroo Rat The federal government’s intransigence when it comes to delisting recovering species reveals both the government’s disregard for the rule of law and the underlying real goal of so much environmental legislation: to restrict … Continue reading

Should Congress step back and let the courts handle the WOTUS rule?

Liberty Blog readers know that the “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule issued earlier this summer is not only a brazen power grab by the U.S. EPA and Army Corps of Engineers that will create additional costs, risks, and … Continue reading

Orwellian language in the Clean Water Act

Recent press coverage of PLF’s challenge to the compliance order that Andy Johnson received from the EPA has highlighted some of the Orwellian language in the Clean Water Act. As you’ll recall, EPA is threatening Andy with tens of millions … Continue reading

PLF challenges EPA’s threat of massive fines against innocent property owner for improving the environment

Andy Johnson owns eight acres of land in Fort Bridger, Wyoming, where he’s made his family’s home and raises livestock. A small stream crosses his property and provides water for his livestock, as it has for prior owners going back … Continue reading

Jurisdictional determinations under the Clean Water Act, revisited

Federal administrative agencies should comply with their own regulations.  Right?  It doesn’t always happen that way.

Yesterday, on behalf of our client, Gallagher & Henry, a second-generation, family – owned developer, we filed a lawsuit challenging a determination made by the United States Army Corps of Engineers that Gallagher & Henry’s property in Tinley Park, Illinois, is a jurisdictional wetland under the federal Clean Water Act. The complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, alleges that the property at issue is prior converted cropland, which is excluded from Clean Water Act jurisdiction by the Corps’ own regulations.  That regulatory exclusion is of keen interest to farmers and developers nationwide.

The federal government has consistently taken the position that jurisdictional determinations are not reviewable in court because they do not affect the legal relationship between property owners and the government.  The problem is that, once a jurisdictional determination is made, a property owner is forced to apply for a permit from the Corps, which could take years of effort at substantial cost, or forego developing the property, or simply proceed with the project without a permit, at the risk of substantial civil and criminal penalties.   PLF successfully litigated the reviewability issue in the Hawkes case, where the Eighth Circuit held that jurisdictional determinations are judicially reviewable.  But in another PLF case, the Fifth Circuit held in Kent that jurisdictional determinations are not reviewable.  In an effort to resolve the split between the circuits, PLF filed a petition for certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, seeking review of the Kent decision.  That petition is pending.

Undoubtedly, the government will argue here that the Corps’ jurisdictional determination is unreviewable.  But this case was filed in a federal district court in the Seventh Circuit, which is not bound by either Hawkes or Kent.  The reviewability of the Corps jurisdictional determination will be among the first battles in the case.