A. Barton Hinkle on Why Everybody's a Potential Criminal in the Eyes of the EPA
A half-century ago, John Pozsgai emigrated to America from Hungary. Twenty-five years later, he bought a hunk of land in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, that had been used as an illegal dumping ground for used tires and old car parts. Pozsgai wanted to build a garage on the land. So he hauled away the old tires—7,000 of them—and the rusty scrap metal, and hauled in clean fill dirt and topsoil.
Sometimes when it rained, the tires caused water to build up on the property. In the eyes of the federal government, that made it a wetland. Federal agents used surveillance cameras to record Pozsgai's cleanup activity and had him arrested for "discharging pollutants"—i.e., the fill dirt and topsoil—"into the waters of the United States." Convicted, he got a three-year prison sentence and a $200,000 fine. If federal regulators have their way, writes A. Barton Hinkle, America could see a lot more John Pozsgais in its future.