CWAG Roundup

September 15, 2016
 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
 
CWAG OFFICE STAFF CHANGES
 
CWAG looks forward to introducing members and friends to Ale Stephens, who has been hired as a new staff member responsible for meeting planning and attendee support services at CWAG. Ale has previously worked for CWAG on the Mexico Alliance Partnership program and also for the Colorado Attorney General's Office. Ale can be reached at Astephens@cwagweb.org or 303.304.9206. Ale replaces longtime CWAG Meeting Planner and CWAG friend Janine Knudsen. Janine has taken a new position, Senior Program Manager for Membership and Event, at the Democratic Attorneys General Association. Janine can be reached at: janine@democraticags.org or 916.704.1057.
 
NEVADA ATTORNEY GENERAL AND STAFF CONDUCT OUTREACH
 
CWAG Attorney General Adam Laxalt of Nevada visited Fallon for a first-time community meeting as part of the office's "AG for a Day" tour. Fallon was the group's first stop in Northern Nevada. "He thinks like we do, and we think that's a big step in the right direction," said Arthur Mallory, Churchill County district attorney, as he opened the meeting for Laxalt and his team. Laxalt's grandfather, Paul Laxalt, is the former Nevada governor who inspired the meeting series idea with his "Capital for a Day" tour in 1968. "I'm here and ready to receive," said Laxalt, who visited Naval Air Station Fallon earlier. Laxalt served as a U.S. Navy officer and had a tour in Iraq. Keeping tradition, both Laxalt and his staff, who represented major state government divisions, are taking their office directly to residents. The aim gives individuals in each county the opportunity to voice their concerns, ask questions and receive first-hand responses, as well as help for Laxalt's office to construct targeted solutions.
 
ENERGY
 
The Standing Rock Sioux's effort to block a four-state oil pipeline got a lifeline when the federal government temporarily stopped the project, a move some say likely may forever change the way all energy infrastructure projects are reviewed in the future. Just minutes after U.S. District Judge James Boasberg denied the Standing Rock Sioux tribe's attempt to halt the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline that skirts the reservation in southern North Dakota, three federal agencies appealed to the pipeline company to "voluntarily pause" work on a segment that tribal officials say holds sacred sites and artifacts. Tribal officials challenged the Army Corps of Engineers' decision to grant permits for Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners' $3.8 billion pipeline that is intended to carry oil from North Dakota to Illinois. The statement by the Departments of Justice, Army and Interior said it would "reconsider any of its previous decisions" on land that borders or is under Lake Oahe, one of six reservoirs on the Missouri River and the drinking water source for the tribal members on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The statement from the federal departments also said the case "highlighted the need for a serious discussion" about nationwide reforms "with respect to considering tribes' views on these types of infrastructure projects." Industry consultant Brigham McCown, a former acting administrator for the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, said the Obama administration's involvement has "changed the lay of the land forever" for infrastructure projects. "This could bog down or delay every single infrastructure project moving forward," he said. "I don't think they even realize the can of worms they've opened."
 
EDUCATION DEBT
 
For-profit college chain Bridgepoint Education Inc. will refund students $23.5 million for allegedly tricking them into taking out loans that cost more than advertised, under a settlement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The San Diego-based company, which neither admitted nor denied the allegations, will also pay an $8 million civil penalty, the agency said. The consumer bureau said that Bridgepoint told its students that borrowers "normally" paid off loans with monthly payments as low as $25, even though the bureau said that amount wasn't "realistic." The refunds include $5 million to students who had already repaid some of their loans, and $18.5 million to discharge outstanding debt. Bridgepoint operates Ashford University and University of the Rockies.
 
Students at the Albuquerque ITT Tech location expected to get back to class after the Labor Day weekend. A note on the door even said, "We will return Wednesday, September 7th." But that wasn't the case because every single one of ITT's U.S. campuses closed. Now, the state's top prosecutor, wants the federal government to help those students left in the dust after the sudden shutdown. CWAG Attorney General Hector Balderas of New Mexico said what happened to thousands across the country is unacceptable. "I'm appalled that they shut their doors," General Balderas told KOAT-TV during an interview. General Balderas said his office believes that nearly 400 New Mexicans are affected by ITT's closure. He said many of them took out federal loans to pay ITT and now don't know how they'll recover. "Many times students are struggling to pay back these loans, many times students are of low income, students of color who really can be protected," General Balderas said.
 
ENVIRONMENTAL LAW
 
CWAG Associate Attorney General Peter Kilmartin of Rhode Island announced he filed a lawsuit over the use of a hazardous gasoline additive against several defendants, including British Petroleum and Exxon Mobile. In the 1970s oil companies began using an additive called Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether, known as MTBE. It's since been discovered to ruin water quality, causing it to smell and taste of turpentine. Assistant Attorney General Michael Rubin said the substance is considered a likely carcinogen and has already been found locally. "It's contaminated wells in RI, it's contaminated aquifers in RI," said Rubin. "In Chepachet, there's been MTBE found in the groundwater. There's a location in South Kingstown, specifically Wakefield." In addition, Rubin said MTBE has been found in Burrillville, Chepachet, and South County, among other places. "It's mainly involving well-water, but it's not just involving individual homeowners' wells, it's also involving municipal owned waterworks wells," said Rubin.
 
MARIJUANA
 
CWAG Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth of Alaska issued an opinion on the legal status of "marijuana social clubs." These clubs call themselves private social clubs but operate like businesses, inviting members of the public to consume marijuana on the premises in exchange for a fee. The Attorney General's opinion makes clear that consuming marijuana at these places is unlawful. The opinion also clarifies that offering marijuana samples to paying patrons may violate state criminal law against distributing marijuana without a valid commercial license. "When Alaskans voted in 2014 to liberalize personal use of marijuana and to allow a commercial marijuana industry, they also voted to prohibit public consumption of marijuana," said General Lindemuth. "Unlicensed marijuana social clubs are public places like any other place of business-such as cafes, movie theaters, or retail stores-where marijuana consumption is not allowed by law."
 
The 2016 Denver Marijuana Management Symposium will feature experts from around the country when the conference convenes in just six weeks. Join the conference in the Mile High City for not only a look at Denver's collaborative approach to marijuana management, but also to hear regulatory perspectives from elsewhere in Colorado, and from Washington, Oregon and Alaska. The agenda includes general sessions on the state of marijuana management from around Colorado and the nation, and a full slate of breakout sessions on everything from law enforcement to licensing, and from inspections to safety to youth education. The symposium offers an optional industry tour plus two full days of information for anyone interested in learning about the regulation of legal marijuana from Denver and other jurisdictions. To register see: www.dmms2016.com/register/ 
 
GUN CONTROL PROPOSAL
 
CWAG Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington, joined by a broad coalition of over 50 community leaders and elected officials, announced he will submit agency request legislation in the 2017 session to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. The bill would ban weapons like the AR-15 used to kill three teens and wound another at a party in Mukilteo in July. Reports indicate that the shooter used a 30-round magazine in that incident, which would also be banned under the proposal. General Ferguson's proposed legislation has two key elements: (1) A ban on semiautomatic weapons with military-style features that render them more easily concealable or more deadly; and (2) A limit on magazine capacity - currently unlimited under Washington law - to a maximum of 10 rounds of ammunition. "The recent tragedy in Mukilteo drives home the need to act with urgency to end the availability of weapons designed with only one purpose - to kill people," General Ferguson said. "I have a duty to protect the public, as well as uphold the constitution. My proposal will ban some of the deadliest weapons, while respecting the Second Amendment right to bear arms."
 
DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
 
The owner and the marketer of herbal pills touted in Iowa newspaper ads as "fixing" leaky bladders and making padded underwear "a thing of the past" will permanently stop targeting Iowans through an agreement with CWAG Associate Attorney General Tom Miller of Iowa, who alleged that the advertisements were grossly misleading. Through an agreement called an assurance of voluntary compliance, Independent Nutraceuticals Inc., company owner Chuck Slotkin, and the Australian developer of the supposed bladder remedy, Tracey Seipel, will pay more than $20,000 for refunds to about 140 Iowa consumers, permanently cease marketing to Iowa residents, and pay an additional $10,000 to support future enforcement of Iowa's Consumer Fraud Act. "These ads shamelessly exploited Iowans desperate for effective remedies for bladder control problems caused by age or infirmity," General Miller said. "The sellers aggressively boosted sales by advertising that their herbal pills would mean 'adios to adult diapers,' when in fact they could not begin to substantiate such dramatic results."
  
Chris Coppin
Legal Director
Conference of Western Attorneys General
1300 I Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
505-589-5101 (cell)
817-615-9335 (fax)
Chris.coppin@cwagweb.org