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Government Bullies How Everyday Americans Are Being Harassed, Abused, and Imprisoned by the Feds
By Rand Paul
Center Street Copyright © 2012 Rand Paul
All right reserved.
Property Wrongs—EPA Bullies
“No person shall be… deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation…”
—UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION, AMENDMENT V
Government “Wetland” Goons
“The true foundation of republican government is the equal right of every citizen in his person and property and in their management.”
As a U.S. senator, it is my job is to keep an eye on what our government is up to. As a conservative, I have grave concern that our government has become completely out of control. This is true in ways that even many of my fellow conservatives don’t realize in the immediate sense. Many elected officials don’t realize it. Many Americans don’t realize it, which I’m quite sure is completely fine with many elected officials.
But what our government is doing is not “fine.” It’s infuriating.
Since its creation in 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency has done more harm than good. Typical of government as opposed to private solutions, with the inception of the EPA bad policy began to outweigh the good intentions, the massive cost quickly surpassed the original concern of “doing nothing,” and the new powers given to Washington bureaucrats inevitably began to corrupt absolutely. If the race of government bullying were a contest between different agencies, the EPA would take the crown.
EPA regulations cost more than 5 percent of our annual gross domestic product (which was over $15 trillion in 2012). This is equivalent to the costs of defense and homeland security combined. Most Americans are unaware of this. Assuming that the EPA is somehow just protecting the environment, as the name would suggest, too many Americans are unaware that it and agencies like it are yet more representatives of the bloated bureaucracy that characterizes every other part of our federal government.
Whether by coincidence or design, since EPA regulations began taking property, jobs, and businesses away from citizens, unemployment in America has increased by 33 percent. This abuse of power by the implementation of regulations infringes upon all Americans’ basic rights, whether or not some of us are ever directly affected by their rules.
Too often our rights are violated by abusive and power-hungry EPA bureaucrats who use threats, coercion, and force to implement power grabs. I wish these instances of abuse were random and the exception, but they have unfortunately come to characterize what many Americans now rightly see as a rogue government agency. EPA regulations have hampered landowners’ ability to manage their private property as they please and have seriously impaired job creation. As with the massive cost of the EPA, many Americans are unaware of the routine suffering caused by the overreach of such regulatory agencies.
One of the most egregious examples of the overreach of government is in the enforcement of federal wetlands regulations (see http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/guidance/wetlands/sec404.cfm).
Wetlands are a creation of the Clean Water Act of 1972, though interestingly, what qualifies as a wetland is ill-defined, to say the least. In fact, the definition is so nebulous that as recently as 2011 the EPA was still issuing guidelines about wetlands regulations. What constitutes a wetland is almost impossible to discern for individuals, and even when they believe their property is not a wetland, the EPA can declare it so according to no definition but their own. Property owners are not subject to simple rule of law, but rather are constantly at the mercy of a government agency that makes its own laws, often without rhyme, reason, common sense, or oversight.
This lack of specificity in wetland law, sometimes intentional and sometimes through sloppiness, is indicative of a problem with Congress, whose initial flawed attempt at legislation—and repeated bungled attempts at oversight—have left the executive branch with far too much power to essentially fill in the blanks of legislation. Famously, the passage of Obamacare offers an example, where hundreds of times throughout the legislation actions are to be taken “by the director of HHS” (Health and Human Services) rather than at the direction of those who wrote the law in the first place.
When power is left in the hands of the executive, it will always grow. There is no mechanism to stop it within the executive branch. Budgets will balloon. Pages of regulations will sprout. And power will cause those in charge to act like masters instead of servants—something that happens all too frequently in our government these days.
Throughout this section the stories of those who have come forward to fight back against unimaginable abuse at the hands of government bullies will be told, sometimes in my words, when possible in their own words. I want you to know the details, the pain, the suffering. I want all Americans to know about the omnipresent harassment by the government in the lives of these ordinary, law-abiding citizens. It is entirely possible that you could be next.
In Pennsylvania, take the story of John Pozsgai, an immigrant from Hungary who worked as a mechanic and eventually saved enough money to purchase the land bordering his home in Morrisville, Pennsylvania. This land was nothing more than an old auto junkyard, and Mr. Pozsgai—simply taking pride in his home—proceeded to clean it up by removing seven thousand old tires and rusted-out automobiles. However, the EPA did not view this effort as a necessary, much less praiseworthy, cleanup, but rather as a violation of the Clean Water Act. You see, Mr. Pozsgai’s property was deemed a “wetland,” ambiguously defined by the EPA as any property that has some sort of connection to another wetland. That connection to a wetland was a small drainage ditch located on the edge of his property.
Mr. Pozsgai did not need a permit to dump topsoil on an isolated wetland. However, the Army Corps of Engineers insisted he apply for one. Next, the EPA set up surveillance cameras to capture Mr. Pozsgai filling his land with topsoil. EPA agents then arrested him for “discharging pollutants into waters of the United States.” These “pollutants” consisted of earth, topsoil, and sand. The EPA openly admits that no hazardous wastes were involved in the case, yet Mr. Pozsgai was found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison and fined $202,000. Mr. Pozsgai spent one and a half years in prison, one and a half in a halfway house, and was under supervised probation for five years. His family went bankrupt and was unable to pay its property taxes on the land. This happened to a man who fled communism who came to America seeking freedom and prosperity.
A similar breach of power can be studied in the case of John Rapanos. Federal officials prosecuted Mr. Rapanos for shoveling dirt around on his property in Bay County, Michigan. The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers filed charges against him for “polluting” the wetlands by leveling the soil on his property. Under the “migratory molecule” rule, the Army Corps claims that any isolated wetland can fall under federal jurisdiction because there is a speculative possibility that a water molecule from one wetland may reach another navigable waterway. In Mr. Rapanos’s case, the nearest navigable water is roughly twenty miles from his property.
Federal officials had little real evidence against Mr. Rapanos, and U.S. district judge Lawrence Zatkoff threw out the conviction, refusing to follow the unjust federal guidelines enforced by the EPA. Unfortunately, Judge Zatkoff was overruled by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Mr. Rapanos later appealed his conviction to the U.S. Supreme Court, yet the Court refused to hear his case. He now faces possible jail time.
Mr. and Mrs. Michael Sackett of Priest Lake, Idaho, have also fallen victim to the EPA’s abusive and overbearing practices. The Sacketts sought to build a house on their half acre of land, yet after construction broke ground the EPA interfered, claiming the family had violated the Clean Water Act by placing fill materials into “wetlands.” Like others targeted by the EPA, the Sacketts’ property was designated a wetland. Yet their neighbors had built houses on either side of their lot, and the Sacketts’ lot already had established sewage lines. Their lot does not harbor a lake, pond, or stream, yet the EPA is requiring them to obtain a building permit that would cost more than the value of their land. The Sacketts proceeded by filing suit, but the request was dismissed by a federal judge. But in March of 2012 the Supreme Court overruled the lower court, which allowed the Sacketts to move forward with a civil action under the Administrative Procedure Act. This act, as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia explained in writing the unanimous decision, provides for judicial review of “final agency action for which there is no other adequate remedy in court.” The Supreme Court is now considering these violations.
The repeated abuse of power by the EPA has been noted across the country and it infringes on the lives of all Americans. You will hear the stories above, along with those of Robbie Rigley, Ocie Mills, and Bill Ellen. You’ll hear about the harassment of people like Mark Groenendyk and Marinus Van Leuzen.
One of the few bright spots is that some of these folks above, and others like them, were helped by good men and women who have devoted their life to helping fight these tyrannical government abuses. The Pacific Legal Foundation, which is currently before the Supreme Court representing the Sacketts on their case, and has dozens of similar cases around the country, helps lead this effort. I want to tell their story also, because ultimately this book is about how we can fix the problem and the examples of hope given by those fighting and winning today.
Property rights were once regarded as fundamental to the protection of liberty, and it is time that legislators restore the value of personal property and rein in government overreach. At the end of this section, I’ll tell you exactly what I want to do about the problems exemplified in these stories.
On February 7, 2011, I introduced the REINS Act (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act). This act requires that all major regulations—those greater than $100 million—be voted on by Congress. Opening the regulatory process to public scrutiny will make government agencies accountable to all American citizens. This is a commonsense reform that will increase congressional liability, improve the regulatory process, and protect citizens from restrictions being placed on their economic and private practices. The REINS Act ensures that federal agencies cannot destroy jobs, our economy, or our way of life by implementing unnecessary regulations. These harmful and abusive regulations must end in order to safeguard the American freedom we all recognize as our birthright.
On February 16, 2012, I introduced the Defense of the Environment and Property Act, which would finally define wetlands and navigable waters in the law and stop the out-of-control EPA in its war on private property.
Together, bills like these would send the agency and rules that led to the inexcusable abuse of John Pozsgai and others whose lives have been ruined to the ash heap of history—where they belong.
Escaping Communism and Finding Tyranny in America
“While my father was still able to speak, I asked him, ‘Daddy, what should we do with the land?’ He muttered in broken words, ‘Build a hospital to fix people like me.’ ”
October 12, 2011, Washington, D.C.: Victoria Pozsgai-Khoury appeared before a panel of U.S. senators for a roundtable discussion I hosted entitled “Property Wrongs.” I led this discussion and invited Victoria to share her father’s story—a story of the American dream gone astray because of power-grabbing bureaucrats and an overreaching, unjust government. Her father, Pennsylvania resident John Pozsgai, spent decades entangled in a legal battle with the EPA simply because he moved landfill from one area of his property to another.
Beginning in 1990, this legal battle with the EPA consumed and engulfed the Pozsgai family’s lives for over twenty years.
When I originally asked Victoria to come to Washington to tell her family’s story, she was very hesitant to attend due to her father’s ailing condition. But John Pozsgai had spent his life fighting for and searching for true freedom—beginning with his escape from communism nearly fifty years ago.
Now, at age seventy-nine and in extremely poor health, he nevertheless urged his daughter to attend the Senate hearings and encouraged her to share with the nation their family’s story of government abuse. To Mr. Pozsgai, getting his story heard was more important than having her present, kneeling and praying at what would unfortunately soon become his deathbed.
He was surrounded by many loved ones as he died, but his daughter Victoria was not there. Instead, she was carrying out his last wishes, speaking on her father’s behalf to warn the nation of the constant abuse our government practices—abuses of power so serious that they will strip away everything you have and ruin your opportunity to prosper in our free nation.
While her father was dying, Victoria was telling the story of her family’s rights, which were unjustly violated by tyrannical and cruel government bureaucrats. She was also telling the story of a remarkable life, one that epitomized what America is supposed to stand for—but a life faced with unimaginable struggles due to what, sadly, America has too often become.
Before coming to the United States fifty years ago, John Pozsgai fought communism. In the nation of his birth, Hungary, the Soviet regime conscripted him into their army and forced him to serve for his “motherland.” He had no right to refuse this or any other dictate of his authoritarian government, yet refuse he did. In 1956, the Soviet army invaded Hungary. John Pozsgai refused to fight against his own countrymen and instead joined the resistance. But the Hungarian freedom fighters proved no match for Soviet tanks and the overall might of their authoritarian invaders, and John was forced to flee Hungary. He came to America, as millions of others seeking freedom have done.
John Pozsgai, like so many first-generation immigrants who escaped communism and government turmoil, loved America as much if not more than any native-born American. He knew what kind of precious and unique freedom he had found in this country, largely because he knew the tyranny he had left behind. John and Gizella Pozsgai came to America as refugees seeking freedom with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and virtually no English-language skills. Still, they worked together tirelessly and joyfully, building a family truck repair business in a garage behind their small home in Morrisville, Pennsylvania.
John Pozsgai worked hard in his new country. He paid taxes. He raised a family. He started his own business. He actively pursued the American dream and became a citizen of the United States.
Yet how did his adopted country treat him? Armed agents of the federal government arrested, tried, and imprisoned him for the environmental crime of placing fill clean dirt onto dry land. His dry land. Land that he bought and land that he owned. This freedom fighter bravely risked his life and escaped communism, only to be imprisoned by bureaucratic rules turned into crimes. These rules were written not by elected representatives, but by unelected appointees.
How could this happen in America? How could a country famous for freedom and the “rule of law” allow people to be imprisoned for moving dirt on their own property? The story of John Pozsgai and how he was sentenced to the bureaucratic gulag is one that needs to be told, and retold, and shouted from the highest rooftop!
Imprisoning people for running afoul of bureaucratic red tape is not an America to be proud of. It is not the America our Founding Fathers envisioned or desired. It is not the America to which generations of immigrants came to find freedom. It is not the America brave patriots fought and died to found. The bureaucrats who unjustly prosecute innocent individuals are truly disgraceful and their laws must be repealed. This is not some fanciful initiative—it is a moral imperative if a free America is to survive.
On December 30, 1988, John Pozsgai was found guilty on forty counts of violating the Clean Water Act. He was given the maximum fine of $202,000 and the maximum sentence of three years in prison, the longest jail term in history at the time for any environmental crime. To put this in perspective, Pozsgai received a harsher punishment than those at Exxon responsible for the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Based on his punishment at the time of his conviction, Mr. Pozsgai was the worst polluter in the history of the United States.
So what heinous crime did John Pozsgai commit? What horrible toxin had he unleashed? How many deaths had he caused?
Pozsgai was charged with “discharging pollutants into the navigable waters of the United States.” That sounds terrible. None of us want pollutants in our streams, lakes, and rivers. What toxic, life-threatening chemical did this alleged monster dump into our waters?
The answer is nothing. According to court documents, no chemical, toxins, or trash were ever dumped into any stream or river by John Pozsgai. The “pollutant” Pozsgai was accused of discharging was dirt—clay and mud—the same “harmful” dirt we all made mud pies with as young children.
You are probably thinking I am kidding, right? Dirt?
Yes, Pozsgai was convicted of discharging dirt. But surely the dirt must have clogged a stream and created a mess? Surely his actions harmed his neighbors and the environmental well-being of his community? His actions had to hurt someone or something, right? Well, no. The dirt was fill and it was literally scooped up and moved from one end of the property to the other end of the property. The dirt was discharged from one piece of his dry land onto another piece of his dry land. That’s it. No more, no less. Which begs the obvious question: How can the federal government claim dry ground is a “navigable” water?
Herein lies the crux of the bureaucratic and regulatory labyrinth that is Washington. Congress passed a law that forbids the discharge of pollutants into bodies of navigable water. Unelected bureaucrats and administrative judges altered that law to make pollutants include dirt and to interpret “navigable waters” to mean low-lying ground that may have had water in it at some point, or has plants growing on it that can also grow in wet conditions.
How could this happen? How could we imprison people for crimes that only became crimes when bureaucrats doctored laws to make them mean something Congress never intended them to mean? And how did “navigable waters” come to include any low-lying, moist ground?
One of the main culprits is the ever-elastic definition of “wetlands.”
We have all heard that term. Most of us logically assume it is used to describe large, environmentally sensitive areas like the Everglades or the Gulf coast. But this is not always the case. This is often not the case. Unfortunately, law-abiding citizens like Mr. Pozsgai had to learn this the hard way.
Interestingly, the Clean Water Act never even mentioned the term “wetlands” while passing through Congress for approval. The unelected bureaucracy simply created the concept and defines it in distinct terminology dependent upon whatever scenario they are currently considering. “Wetlands” quite literally can mean whatever the EPA wants it to mean.
The definition of wetlands has become so absurd and transparent that the Army Corps of Engineers developed the “migratory bird theory.” This theory states that if your land is a stopping point for any migratory bird that has traveled between real navigable waters, then your land is now de facto connected to the interstate navigable streams. I’m not kidding.
This theory is irrational and completely illogical. How did it ever become enforceable law? It happened because Congress has abdicated its duty in this area, just as it has been so derelict in countless other constitutional duties. Congress wrote vague yet sweeping laws that allowed regulatory breaches to become crimes even if the person had no intent of committing a crime. Citizens often run afoul of these rules inadvertently due to the constant evolution of complex and unexplained regulations.
What was not a crime in 1974 became a crime in 1975 when the courts defined pollutants to include dirt. What was not a crime in 1987 became a crime in 1989 when President George H. W. Bush rewrote the wetlands policy to double the amount of private land covered, to essentially place an assertion of 100 million acres of land under the purview of an unelected, unrestrained, and unpredictable “wetlands police.”
The injustice of unelected bureaucrats creating their own laws and sending American citizens to prison is as egregious as it is hard to believe. I can guarantee you that John Pozsgai and his family could not, and still cannot, believe it. Neither can the Sackett family, nor could the Wrigley family. Nor could the various other individuals who’ve been abused by overreaching bureaucracy. Their stories are the tales of freedom fighters. They are bravely fighting this outrageous government abuse and looking for permanent solutions so that no other American has to go through what they did. Their stories are real. They are frightening.
John Pozsgai’s battle with the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers began in 1986 when he purchased a dump located near his home. Remember throughout Pozsgai’s story that we are indeed just talking about a dump—just what you would imagine, with old tires, junk, and debris strewn everywhere. The dump was a complete eyesore and had been for over thirty years. This wasn’t a lake. It wasn’t a beach. It wasn’t a riverfront. It was a dump. Nothing more, nothing less.
The Pozsgais purchased the lot with the intention of expanding the family business by building a large shop for truck repairs. He sought and received all of the proper local permits from the Department of Labor and the local Department of Environmental Protection.
Mr. Pozsgai had a plan that would both clean up a thirty-year eyesore—a worthless piece of property—as well as create more jobs in his hometown. One would think this sounds like exactly the kind of thing any government would be promoting and encouraging. It sounds like exactly the kind of property stewardship and community contribution most Americans would praise, right?
But this isn’t what happened.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection gave the Pozsgais the go-ahead, including stating that their property was not on the National Wetlands Inventory map. Even if there were any wetlands, additional fill was preauthorized by the Corps under Nationwide Permit No. 26 for up to ten acres for isolated wetlands. The Pozsgais felt assured that there would be no problems and no holdups from the government.
After this state evaluation, John Pozsgai mortgaged his house to buy the property and began to clean up and clear the site for construction.
But instead of Pozsgai being commended by the community for his backbreaking efforts, on August 24, 1988, the Corps of Engineers and EPA sued him in federal civil court for allowing clean, nontoxic fill material to be placed on less than three-quarters of an acre on the so-called wetland area of the property.
It was clear that these federal thugs had a vendetta: In fact, the government had been conducting aerial surveillance of the property since Pozsgai’s renovations began. They even planted a video camera in a neighbor’s house to further videotape Mr. Pozsgai’s property.
Why did our government do this? There was no legitimate reason for Mr. Pozsgai to be targeted. It was an injustice and an outrage, clear and simple.
And it didn’t stop there.
Just a few days later, the U.S. attorney in Philadelphia had several federal agents surround Pozsgai in his shop and arrested him. He was handcuffed and hauled off to federal criminal court in Philadelphia. He wasn’t even allowed a phone call. Mrs. Pozsgai sat weeping, saying it was just like when the Soviets came into Hungary and took family and neighbors without any justification.
The Pozsgais were eventually told that the EPA had made a criminal case against them. Yet in the meantime the family bailed their father out of jail and began preparing for what was to come—an attack by the federal government on their father’s most basic rights.
After posting bail and returning home, the family found two armed agents searching their house and business for illegal firearms. Victoria Pozsgai-Khoury described the scene, saying, “It was like watching thieves burglarize your home and not being able to do anything. We felt violated for years after this experience.” The EPA officials never found any firearms—because they did not exist. Claims to the contrary by these government thugs were just as bogus as their wetlands claims had been.
In their arguments, the Corps and the EPA spun a tale of federally regulated wetlands on this isolated property because it was adjacent to a drainage ditch that somehow connected underground to the nonnavigable Delaware Canal. They switched maps and locations or simply misread them, and misdirected the officials to the wrong coordinates. They lacked correct elevations, they falsified forensic soil data, and they lacked soil DNA—soil diatoms and anaerobes. They manufactured a phony wetlands delineation lacking proper photogrammetric aerials. Adding to this delusion and confusion, these agencies couldn’t even agree on a clear definition of what “wetlands” were or where they existed on Mr. Pozsgai’s property. It appears as though the only thing they could agree on was the target—they had their sights set on John Pozsgai and they were going to take him down regardless.
The EPA and prosecution had somehow contrived a drainage ditch to be a stream and then marked it as such on aerial photos that were later submitted in court. The stormwater drainage ditch was filled with over seven thousand old tires, which Mr. Pozsgai painstakingly removed at his own cost. The debris and tires in that drainage ditch caused regular flooding on Bridge Street, which affected the Pozsgais’ basement as well as some of the neighboring properties. After the property was cleaned up there were no more floods. In fact, no flooding was reported on that property for the next twenty-five years, even with three epic floods taking place in surrounding areas.
The drainage ditch in question borders Pozsgai’s property and was created by the DOT prior to 1936. Even going through property deeds dating as far back as the 1800s, no wetlands were ever found on this particular site.
At every juncture throughout this ordeal the Pozsgais kept asking, “How can we make this work? What do we have to do to have rights on our own land?” They knew this situation was a terrible misunderstanding. The prosecution had wrong addresses, wrong site maps, wrong elevations/topography, wrong slopes, and wrong soil samples that were all contributing factors to the Pozsgais’ dilemma. It turned out Morrisville has two streets with the same name, and these agencies kept mistaking one for the other. This would cause massive confusion in the courtroom.
On December 30, 1988, the court reached a verdict—John Pozsgai was found guilty on forty counts of violating the Clean Water Act. Why? Again, all he’d done was “damage” a few acres of so-called federal wetlands by using clean, nontoxic, nonhazardous fill. He was given the maximum fine of $202,000 and the maximum sentence of three years in prison. As I mentioned earlier, this was the longest jail term in history at that time for any environmental crime, even more than for the Exxon Valdez oil spill or for dumping hazardous waste in lakes.
The day after Thanksgiving in 1990, John Pozsgai began serving his sentence in Allenwood federal prison, about a 400-mile round trip from his home and family. By July of the following year the Pozsgai family was bankrupt.
Where once he was a very productive citizen who paid taxes on his land, he was now a ward of the state and unable to produce anything because of the injustices visited upon him by his own government.
Pozsgai ended up serving a year and a half of hard time; he spent another year and a half in a halfway house and was given five years’ supervised probation. His fine was later reduced to $5,000 thanks to another appeal by their attorney, Paul Kamenar. Mr. Kamenar successfully argued that the fine was excessive due to the Pozsgais’ meager finances and negative net worth.
During Pozsgai’s incarceration, the government ordered a “restoration.” They dug up more than ten acres of the fourteen-acre site. They moved and removed twice as much as Pozsgai’s said violation, and continued digging pits and ditches all over the site. A huge hole was dug, which EPA officials said would become a wetlands pond. Ten years later the hole remained high and dry. In 2000, nearly two decades after this ordeal began and not satisfied with the dry plot of land, the government forcibly dug up another area, blocking drainage from the site.
Now they finally have their pond.
As recently as 2007, the EPA was still harassing the Pozsgais. A federal judge sided with the EPA to say the Pozsgais were in contempt of an EPA order and must return their land to its previous status as a wetland. Does this mean the EPA and that federal judge want the Pozsgais to redump the thousands of old tires in the drainage ditch, and return the old rusted junk they cleared out?
None of this makes any sense.
After all of the government’s intervention and abuse, not one dollar was paid to the Pozsgais for the loss and destruction of their land.
It’s as though these government agencies went out of their way to ensure the financial and emotional suffering of the Pozsgai family. For example, they chased away the communications company Sprint, which wanted to build a cell phone tower on the land. Sprint evaluated the site and said the Pozsgai property had “no wetlands.” They did soil borings over 150 feet deep. The judge said the tower should be permitted, but by the time the Corps took the Pozsgais to court, Sprint had found another site and the family lost yet another source of income.
There is literally no end to the countless tragic ways in which our federal government has cost the Pozsgai family.
On October 6, 2000, the Pozsgais were asked to testify before the House Committee on Government Reform, chaired by Congressman Dan Burton. John Pozsgai got a standing ovation and was given an apology by the chairman on behalf of the government. However, the local Corps did not show a kind face; instead, they continued their agenda and sued the family yet again. The agency then dug up their land to try once more to create a nonviable wetland pond out of an exempted storm drainage ditch.
Currently, the Pozsgais are in legal limbo—they can only use their site for permitted parking, severely limiting their income, with barely enough to pay property taxes.
This is madness.
Bureaucratic agencies like the EPA have proven themselves to be highly corrupt, choking out all efforts by small business to grow or expand. This has been going on for three decades and is no small part of our current economic depression. These agencies must become unaccountable to the American people and to Congress. They have instead become self-serving autocratic rulers, lording over any property owner they set their sights on. These rogue agencies bleed our economy and citizens dry. The Pozsgais came to this country for freedom. What they got instead was abuse. No American should ever have to go through what they experienced. Ever.
Mr. Pozsgai has since passed away. However, while her father was still able to speak, his daughter Victoria asked him, “Daddy, what should we do with the land?” He muttered in broken words, “Build a hospital and fix people like me.” So that is what they plan to do. They want to partner with Alzheimer’s and autism research groups around the country to build a learning and living facility on their property—paying tribute to their father, while trying to heal from their exhausting fight.
But sadly, the same restrictions on development are still there.
These out-of-control agencies—our own federal government—turned the Pozsgais’ American dream into a nightmare. I feel it is my responsibility as a United States senator to make certain that no American will ever be stripped of their rights due to unlawful and despicable government overreach. My goal is to insist on implementing the necessary legislation to rein in these rogue government agencies and to stop tragedies like this from ever happening again.
From American Dream to Nightmare
“As a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.”
In the northernmost reaches of the panhandle of Idaho you will find Priest Lake, a quaint and quiet home to more than forty thousand people. Mike and Chantell Sackett were hoping to join this community and make Priest Lake their home. Mike Sackett had dreamed of building a house on this beautiful lake ever since he camped there with friends as a high school student.
When he returned from his camping trip, Mike told his mother in no uncertain terms, “I am going to live on Priest Lake when I am older.” She laughed off her son’s grand declaration, at which point he reassured her, “Mark my words, I will build my home on that lake.”
Chantell Sackett also had a special place in her heart for Priest Lake. Growing up, she spent her summers there. Chantell explains, “In the summertime, there is no other place you’d rather be. It’s so peaceful and calm and pristine.” So in 2007 the couple bought a piece of landlocked property in a preexisting subdivision on Priest Lake for $23,000. It appeared as though their American dream was coming true. They were finally going to become homeowners on the property they both grew up fantasizing about. “This was where we were going to live for our entire lives as far as we were concerned. This was going to be our home home,” Chantell said.
The Sacketts owned a small construction company and were therefore very informed about the building permit process in the area. They applied for and received the proper local permits for their project, as they had done countless times in the past. For the Sacketts, this was routine. It was business as usual. Yet once they began preparing their land for construction, simply adding gravel and landfill, the EPA decided to get involved. The EPA showed up out of the blue and ordered them to stop working. The representatives did not have any particular credentials, nor did they have anything in writing charging the Sacketts with any violation. They were unwilling to explain why the Sacketts could not build their dream home on land that they owned.
The agency later claimed that the family had violated the Clean Water Act by placing fill materials onto wetlands. But this did not make sense. Their property was completely landlocked in a preexisting subdivision. So when the agents appeared on their land and ordered them to cease construction, Chantell Sackett went looking for an explanation.
She describes her conversation with the EPA: “I asked them if they had anything in writing. They said no. I asked if they had a stop-work order or anything. They said no. I asked if they had any proof or documentation saying that our property was a wetland. They said no, they didn’t need any of that.”
Excerpted from Government Bullies by Rand Paul Copyright © 2012 by Rand Paul. Excerpted by permission.
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