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Hennis v. U.S.

CASE: Todd Hennis v. The United States of America

STATUS: Active

NCLA ROLE: Counsel

COURTS HEARD IN: Fed. Cl.

ORIGINAL COURT: U.S. Court of Federal Claims

DECIDING COURT: U.S. Court of Federal Claims

OPENED: August 3, 2021

AGENCIES: Environmental Protection Agency

FOCUS AREAS:

Due Process Violations

The due process of law guarantees a right to be held to account only through the processes of an impartial court—something administrative tribunals violate every day.

On August 5, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dug away tons of rock and debris that blocked the portal of the Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado. By breaching the mine’s closed portal, without taking proper precautions or obtaining the owner’s permission, EPA triggered a massive blowout that released over 3,000,000 gallons of acid mine drainage and 880,000 pounds of heavy metals onto private property below and into the waterways downstream (including the Animas River). It took the form of a bright, yellow-orange toxic sludge, and the pollution still lingers.

In this catastrophic failure , EPA violated its own directives, protocols, and procedures, while also ignoring well-understood risks of a flooded mine under pressure. For essentially every decision they made that day, the EPA employees erred. Shortly after EPA caused the Gold King Mine blowout, NCLA’s client, Todd Hennis, verbally authorized the government to temporarily use a portion of his property for an emergency staging area for equipment and supplies, recognizing that time was of the essence to mitigate the environmental disaster of EPA’s own making.

Without even calling or emailing Mr. Hennis, EPA constructed a $2.3 million dollar water treatment facility on Hennis’ property, repeatedly refusing to pay him anything for the privilege. Mr. Hennis never granted EPA permission to construct a water treatment facility on his property, nor did he authorize EPA to occupy, use, and pollute his property indefinitely. Nevertheless, since November 2015, EPA has continuously treated the discharge of acid mine drainage from the Gold King Mine at its water treatment plant, thereby taking Mr. Hennis’s property without just compensation in violation of his Fifth Amendment rights. EPA’s water treatment operations also involve the storage of mine waste, solids, and other contaminants on Mr. Hennis’s property, again without paying to do so.

Todd Hennis, Plaintiff

Kara Rollins
Litigation Counsel
NCLA FILINGS

Oral Argument Transcript

August 30, 2022 | Read More

Order From Judge Armando O. Bonilla

August 30, 2022 | Read More

Order Scheduling Oral Argument

July 15, 2022 | Read More

Defendant’s Reply to Plaintiff’s Response in Opposition to the United States’ Motion to Dismiss

January 28, 2022 | Read More

Plaintiff’s Brief in Response to Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss

January 5, 2022 | Read More

PRESS RELEASES

VIDEO: NCLA Holiday Parody Takes Digs at EPA’s Role in Causing Gold King Mine Environ. Disaster

December 12, 2022 | Read More

Colorado Landowner’s Takings Claim Against EPA Advances After Judge Denies Motion to Dismiss

August 30, 2022 | Read More

Video: Seven Years After EPA’s Gold King Mine Spill, Agency Still Refuses to Compensate Landowner

August 5, 2022 | Read More

NCLA Files Suit Against U.S. for Taking of Private Property After EPA’s Gold King Mine Catastrophe

August 3, 2021 | Read More

IN THE MEDIA

Judge’s Ruling Allows Suit Against EPA in 2015 Gold King Mine Spill To Move Forward

Colorado Politics

February 7, 2023

CASE HIGHLIGHTS

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