Please urgently contact Representative Dan Burton, Chairman of
the Committee on Government Reform, and your Member of Congress
to ask them for additional Oversight Hearings to continue the
work that Rep. Burton began in the 107th Congress
with Representative Helen Chenoweth Hage.
Representative Dan Burton (R Indiana), the Chairman of the Committee
on Government Reform, held an Oversight Hearing on October 6,
2000 to examine the Corps of Engineers and the Environmental
Protection Agency's regulation of wetlands, in particular the
area owned by John Pozsgai in Morrisville, Pennsylvania.
In response to Rep. Burton's invitation to describe the their
"family's experience dealing with the Army Corps of Engineers
and the EPA in order to comply with the federal government's
wetlands policy," Mr. Pozsgai's two daughters, Victoria
Khoury and Gloria Heater, spoke eloquently of the federal government's
injustice that has trapped John Pozsgai for approximately fifteen
years. Victoria Khoury's testimony about her father's flight
to the United States during the 1956 Hungarian revolution and
how he worked forty years to build a life for his family in freedom
At the hearing, Rep. Burton pointed out that the three-year
prison term imposed on Mr. Pozsgai was the longest jail term
in history for any environmental crime. The prison term, along
with a fine of $200,000, was imposed on Mr. Pozsgai for cleaning
up a dump that he bought. Mr. Pozsgai actually served the debilitating
prison term, partly in a half-way house, but the fine was later
reduced to $5,000.00.
In 1986 the Pozsgai family bought a dump containing a neglected
municipal stormwater drainage ditch that the Corps of Engineers
later deemed a wetland. As a result of Mr. Pozsgai's cleanup,
the water in the ditch runs far cleaner than before they owned
the land. The alleged wetland from which Mr. Pozsgai removed
5,000 junk tires and into which he then placed clean fill was
smaller than the ten-acre size below which the regulations then
dictated an automatic permit.
Paul A. Kamenar, Senior Counsel of the Washington Legal
Foundation, who gave the opening testimony, presented a litany
of excessive enforcement tactics involving swat teams and extreme
punishments that the Corps of Engineers and EPA have imposed
on ordinary individuals for minor and sometimes imagined violations
of wetlands law.
Gloria Heater pointed out that, eight years after the restoration
of the wetlands, the Corps of Engineers came back in 1999 and
2000 to look for further ways to charge her father with violations,
even though he has not altered the land since the conviction
Rep. Helen Chenoweth Hage, who co-chaired the hearing, confirmed
that the Pozsgai case still continues. She said that, because
of the wetlands conviction, "He has just received notice
from the Immigration and Naturalization Service that he must
go back to Hungary because he was considered a felon."
Your Action Needed:
During the hearing, Rep. Burton said, "This committee
does have jurisdiction over bureaucratic abuse by the government."
After the hearing, he promised the Pozsgai family and friends
from the property rights movement that in the new session
of Congress he would continue the work begun that day with additional
hearings under his committee about abuses of wetlands law.
With a new Administration, these hearings should be very
influential to help rein in the abuses of federal agencies
that are enforcing wetlands law, and to open the door for the
Pozsgai family's petition for justice.
Please telephone or write Rep. Dan Burton
and your Member of Congress requesting
Additional Oversight Hearings on the Enforcement of Wetlands
Law by the Corps of Engineers and the EPA. Ask for Congressional
action to relieve the Pozsgai family from further federal
Rep. Dan Burton, Chairman
U. S. House of Representatives
Committee on Government Reform, Rayburn House office Building,
Washington, DC 20515-6143.
U. S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Main U. S. Capitol switchboard: (202) 224-3121