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Utah Attorney General’s Office Files Amended Complaint in Gold King Lawsuit

Amended complaint adds EPA and other parties to list of defendants

SALT LAKE CITY January 5, 2018 – The Utah Attorney General’s Office filed an amended complaint yesterday in the Gold King Mine blowout lawsuit. The amendment adds the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States, and Weston Solutions, Inc., one of EPA’s contractors, as defendants.
 
Triggered on August 5, 2015, by the EPA and its contractors, the uncontrolled blowout of the Gold King Mine dumped over three million gallons of acid wastes and toxic metals, depositing hazardous wastes along the Animas and San Juan Rivers. The plume reached Lake Powell in Utah just nine days later on August 14, 2015.

“We will continue to work closely with the EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice to assess and monitor damages, devise a remediation plan or other remedies, and attempt to settle this case,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes. “The amended complaint was necessary to preserve the legal rights of Utah and its citizens and should not be interpreted as a breakdown in settlement discussions. Those negotiations are on-going to work out a settlement unique to Utah and commensurate with the harm.”
 
“The Gold King Mine blowout was an avoidable disaster, and it is critical that those responsible clean up the wastes and compensate Utah for the damages,” said Spencer Austin, Chief Criminal Deputy of the Utah Attorney General’s Office. “We are in talks with the EPA and hope to reach a resolution soon. Settlement in cases of this magnitude often takes years. If litigation should become necessary, the Utah Attorney General’s Office is ready for a fight. But our hope is to reach an agreement to work together with the EPA to protect our environment.”
 
With the amended complaint, the lawsuit names ten parties as defendants, including three EPA contractors and four mine owners.
 
Throughout the process, the State of Utah has been cooperative with the EPA, yet aggressive in holding that agency responsible for its actions. This cooperative approach has already paid dividends for the State of Utah and its people. For example, more than a million dollars has been reimbursed by the EPA to Utah for expenditures related to initial emergency response and monitoring. The EPA under the Pruitt Administration has been particularly responsive and willing to take responsibility for the mining blowout. 
 
A copy of the First Amended Complaint can be found through this link.
 
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AG Reyes Statement on the Passing of LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson

Attorney General Sean Reyes released the following statement regarding the passing of President Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I love President Thomas S. Monson, and I will miss him. Throughout my life, he has been an example of selfless service and visionary leadership. When I was a young leader of a Latter-day Saint congregation, I looked to President Monson for inspiration and was blessed by his example, and I have continued to look to him for spiritual guidance. His life was a living illustration of individual ministry to the lonely and the downtrodden. His example moved me then, as it does now, to come to the rescue of those in need and to lift those who are weary.

“I will always treasure the quiet interactions we shared together. In his presence, I knew I was speaking to someone intimately familiar with the Lord. Beyond his talks, teachings, and testimony, his service and charity towards his fellowmen were unsurpassed. His love for the human family, like his love for God, was unbounded.

“As a community leader, President Monson was peerless, and yet, he never sought the accolades of the world. His sights were set on a more lasting and transcendent goal of lifting the human spirit and condition to a higher plane. He was blessed with a wry sense of humor and a seemingly bottomless well of stories, a gift for language that he used to touch the lives of millions, as well as to lift each person that he met individually.

“Saysha and I express our sincere and deepest condolences to President Monson’s family, as well as to the members of the LDS Church who are mourning the passing of their prophet. We are all better because of President Monson’s service, and it is my hope that we might all, as he did, come to the rescue of those who are in need around us.”


AG Reyes Thanks Utah National Guard on Deployment to Afghanistan

Attorney General Sean Reyes thanked members of the National Guard for their service as they prepared to deploy for Afghanistan this week:

“We are grateful for members of the Utah National Guard who will deploy today to begin training for a mission to Afghanistan later this year. Our prayers are with each of them, as well as with their families, as they carry out their mission on behalf of our country. Similarly, our thoughts and prayers go out to all our men and women in uniform at home or deployed throughout the world.

“We are reminded of the sacrifice of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines, many from our own staff, who have contributed to the Nation’s defense over many years of service.

“Our own Major Chris Earl will also be deploying soon, although on a different critical mission, and we express our support for his efforts on behalf of our country and send our love to his family.”


AG Reyes Fights to Protect Utah Egg Farmers and Low-Income Families from California Regs

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes today announced his office will challenge in the United States Supreme Court an attempt by the State of California to impose agricultural regulations on the State of Utah and Utah’s egg farmers.

Utah is challenging a California law requiring Utah egg producers to comply with California’s new and much more restrictive farming regulations in order to sell eggs in California. The suit claims that California’s regulations violate both a federal law prohibiting states from imposing their own standards on eggs produced in other states and the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress exclusive authority to regulate commerce among and between states.

In 2016, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Utah and other plaintiff states could not prove harm beyond the effect on individual farmers. lacked standing to pursue their claims. Last week’s filing in the United States Supreme Court addresses the lower court’s concerns by providing a careful economic analysis establishing the impact of these burdensome regulations on American households, including those living below the poverty line. The lawsuit also asks the Supreme Court to take up the case directly instead of requiring that it first move through the lower courts.

“This restriction is a great example of the job-killing regulations that have sent so many Californians fleeing to more business-friendly states, like Utah,” said Attorney General Reyes. “Authority to regulate interstate commerce rests with Congress, not California bureaucrats. And the practical effect of this protectionist regulatory scheme is increased egg prices nationwide. Eggs are one of the top sources of protein for families living below the poverty line. While affluent families may be able to absorb higher egg prices, many poorer families cannot. I believe this is having a disproportionate impact on lower income families.”

The state of Utah is joined in the challenge by 12 other states: Missouri, Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wisconsin. 


AG Reyes Statement on President Trump’s Modification of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments

SALT LAKE CITY December 4, 2017 – Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes released the following statement on President Donald J. Trump’s modification today of Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. 

“Today, with the designation of five new monument units, President Trump has taken a historic step to correct the hubris of past administrations. The new designations are much closer in scope to the “smallest areas compatible with proper care and management” of protected objects, as required by the Antiquities Act. These corrections were made after extensive input from local citizens and interests, including tribal members, conservationists, ranchers, hunters, business owners and elected representatives. President Trump and Secretary Zinke have found a balance that considers the needs of our local communities and still protects the singular, stunning, and sacred lands of our state for future generations.

“Over the history of the Antiquities Act, national monuments have been reviewed and modified by subsequent presidents. It is no surprise, given the disproportionate original designations, that President Trump would reduce these monuments to be more consistent with the intent of the Antiquities Act. Such remedial measures would not be necessary if Congress would clarify the limits of initial monument designations. I echo the statement of Secretary Zinke that executive power under the Act is no substitute for congressional action. We are hopeful that our elected representatives in Washington, D.C. will pass legislation that makes political games with Utah’s public lands less likely in the future.

“The Utah Attorney General’s Office will continue to monitor the process with interest and will continue to protect Utah, its people, and its lands, from federal overreach.”
 

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Attorney General Sean Reyes’ 2017 Thanksgiving Message

November 23, 2017 — Attorney General Sean D. Reyes released the following Thanksgiving Day message:

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln first proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving shortly after a Union victory at Gettysburg. During one of our country’s most divided times, Lincoln was able to recognize the strength of our republic and the hand of divine providence as he called for healing and unity of a tired and depleted nation. 

Today, at a time when so many Americans are divided, there are heroic individuals working valiantly to make our state and country a better and safer place. Whether in the fight against human trafficking, opioid addictions, or crimes against children, it is these Utahns who quietly go about doing the work of angels that make me even more grateful to live in this state.

A few examples from the thousands in our state doing heroic work includes: Sgt. Elle Martin, who over decades has trained tens of thousands of emergency responders, law enforcement, and medical personnel; Sam and Dr. Jennifer Plumb, who have fought tirelessly to provide Naloxone to save lives from opioid overdoses. Then there is Victor Cox and the Americas Council, advocates who spend countless hours serving the Hispanic and other minority communities. 

Similarly, Tim Ballard, Operation Underground Railroad, and other modern-day abolitionists risk their lives to save innocent children from sex trafficking worldwide. I am thankful for Celeste Gleave’s SHEROES team that supports female crime victims and other vulnerable women. Clay Olsen and Fight the New Drug educate the world on the perils of pornography, including child exploitation. And artists like Geralyn Dreyfous, Jenny Mackenzie and Hale Center Theater Sandy performers educate through high-quality film, music, and drama. 

In my own office, Director Tracey Tabet leads a network of Children’s Justice Centers and hundreds of professionals trying to break the cycle of abuse for Utah families while Ruthie Pedregon overseas our victim advocacy efforts. Unsung heroes in the Utah AG Office do everything from taking down violent criminals, protecting land and natural resources to prosecuting non-payment of spousal or child support. 

I am also deeply grateful to servicemen and women who give so much in defense of our country; and to the many first responders—police officers and investigators, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, nurses, and rescue personnel—who are often the first to rush to the aid of fellow Utahns. Utah is rich with examples of sacrifice and giving by many selfless individuals.

And while this is a time for many of us to celebrate with family and friends, some among us are spending Thanksgiving alone—isolated by depression, addictions, homelessness, deployment, or other circumstances. I hope we are mindful of their situations and do everything we can to lift them to a less lonely place.


AG Sean Reyes Statement on on Veterans Day 2017

Attorney General Sean Reyes issued the following statement on Veterans Day 2017:

This month, as we focus on giving thanks, it is more than appropriate that at least one day is specifically dedicated to honoring our military men and women. Thank you to all who have served in uniform and who have sacrificed both on duty and upon returning home. Thank you to family members who have spent time and precious moments away from deployed loved ones. And our deepest thanks to each gold star family who has given the greatest sacrifice for our nation.  

We celebrate Veterans Day in the Attorney General’s office by remembering all who have served our country, including many of our own employees. Personally, I honor my own family members who fought in world wars, some who signed up for the draft during a time when even their loyalty to their country was in question. I also pay tribute to those modern-day veterans like my brother-in-law who served in the Middle East after the attacks on September 11.  

I am humbled each time I’m privileged to recognize a veteran with an award for his or her service and contribution to our community and country. Our office is dedicated to finding ways to serve our veteran community as a whole, recognizing that as a group, they are statistically one of our most vulnerable. We appreciate that their service has often affected them in ways that make them more susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and suicide.  

Far too many vets–over twenty a day–are lost nationwide to suicide. Some reports indicate we have lost more veterans of Middle East conflicts to suicide than to combat. In battle, we speak of leaving no one behind. In a return to civilian life, we leave far too many Vets behind. Additionally, a disproportionate number of Vets are homeless and lacking needed medical attention.  

I hope this Veterans day is a reminder that we, as a community, must re-focus on helping our service men and women overcome the challenges of job displacement and the hurdles of reintegration, offering healthcare, resources, and support for those who are too often fighting a different, internal battle at home.


Utah Attorney General

AG Sean Reyes Joins Bipartisan Letter Urging PBMs to Implement Opioid Mitigation Programs

SALT LAKE CITY October 20, 2017 – Attorney General Sean Reyes has joined with a bipartisan group of attorneys general from across the country in letters to 15 healthcare companies that provide pharmacy benefit management (PBM) services encouraging the companies to implement programs to mitigate prescription opioid abuse.

The attorneys general also sent a letter to the president and CEO of CVS Health Corporation applauding the company’s recent program that automatically enrolled all commercial, health plan, employer and Medicaid clients in an opioid abuse mitigation program.

“As Attorney General, I have seen far too much devastation to Utah families and communities from opioids. In our fight against this epidemic we have learned that all too often addiction starts with prescription medication,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes. 

“I applaud pharmacies like CVS who are proactively implementing policies to lessen the likelihood of addiction by patients. We urge other companies to follow their lead. Limiting the duration and dosage of opioids, among other solutions, will likely decrease significantly the number of new addicts.

“Working with pharmacies is part of the Utah Opioid Task Force’s multi-layered approach with many stakeholders including manufacturers, prescribers, insurance companies, law enforcement & the recovery community to comprehensively address the opioid threat ravaging our nation.”

In their letters to the PBMs, the attorneys general asked that the companies adopt similar measures as CVS, including limiting to seven days the supply of opioids dispensed for certain acute prescriptions for patients who are new to the therapy, limiting the daily dosage of opioids dispensed based on the strength of the opioid, and requiring the use of immediate-release formulations of opioids before extended-release opioids are dispensed. The CVS program’s requirements are similar to the opioid prescribing guidelines recently issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  

The multistate PBM letters were sent to:

  • Argus Health Systems, Inc.
  • Benecard Servies LLC
  • Envision Pharmaceutical Services LLC
  • Envolve Health
  • Express Scripts, Inc.
  • Humana, Inc.
  • Magellan Rx Management
  • MedImpact Healthcare Systems, Inc.
  • Navitus Health Solutions LLC
  • OptumRX , Inc.
  • PerformRx
  • Prime Therapeutics, Inc.
  • ProCare Rx
  • RxAdvance
  • WellDyneRx

“While there are no doubt additional measures that pharmacy benefit managers could take to combat prescription opioid abuse, we believe over-prescribing of opioids could be curtailed by the implementation of a CVS-type program,” the attorneys general wrote.

“The opioid epidemic is the most pressing public health crisis our country faces,” the attorneys general wrote. “It affects every state and has a devastating impact on communities – tearing apart families and stretching the budgets of local law enforcement and first responders as they do the difficult work on the front lines. For our part, attorneys general are pooling resources and coordinating across party lines to address the crisis.”

Opioids, both prescription and illicit, are now the main driver of drug overdose deaths nationwide. According to CDC, opioids were involved in 33,091 deaths in 2015, and opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999. The Utah Department of Health reports in Utah 23 individuals die from prescription drug overdoses every month, and from 2013-2015, Utah ranked 7th in the U.S. for drug poisoning deaths. From 2000 to 2015 Utah saw a nearly 400% increase in deaths from the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs.

In addition to AG Sean Reyes, those joining one or both of today’s letters include attorneys general from Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Please click here to view these letters.
https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Letters-to-CVS-and-PMBs.pdf

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EDITORS NOTES:

1. Find drug overdose death data on the CDC site: https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/statedeaths.html

2. For Utah specific data on prescription drug overdoses visit: http://health.utah.gov/vipp/topics/prescription-drug-overdoses/

 


Utah Attorney General's Office

AG Reyes Statement on Las Vegas Shooting

SALT LAKE CITY October 2, 2017 – Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes released the following statement regarding the shooting last night in Las Vegas. 

“Our deepest sympathies extend to the families of those who lost their lives and our prayers lift toward heaven on behalf of those recovering or whose lives hang in the balance. In addition to the many civilian lives tragically taken, we mourn the deaths of military veterans and law enforcement personnel killed during and in response to the shooting. The thin blue line of law enforcement is painfully even thinner today.

“As has been the case with other mass shootings that have occurred worldwide in the recent past, perhaps out of the horror and shock of such senseless violence, we can unite in love and unity as a nation and as a global community to demonstrate support for those suffering and to condemn all such acts of unmitigated evil.

“Shortly after the news of the shooting broke on Sunday, I reached out to Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt to offer my concern and condolences and any help they may need. He expressed his appreciation to the State for its concern.”

 

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National Crime Prevention Month

October: National Crime Prevention Month

AG Reyes Encourages Utahns to Fight Identity Theft, Online Exploitation During National Crime Prevention Month

SALT LAKE CITY October 2, 2017 – During National Crime Prevention Month, Attorney General Sean D. Reyes urged Utahns to educate themselves about affinity fraud, identity theft, and other forms of white-collar crime, especially those who are vulnerable to predators. With the recent data breach at Equifax, it is especially critical that Utahns take steps to protect themselves.

“While the Utah Attorney General’s Office fights crime every day—from human trafficking, drug smuggling, Ponzi schemes and public corruption to cyberattacks, identify theft and child predation on the Internet—we would like to highlight the danger of these latter threats as we focus on crime prevention this month,” said Attorney General Reyes. “We also want to raise awareness of resources to empower Utahns to protect themselves and ones they love. 

“The Utah AGO has prioritized the protection of businesses and consumers. With the massive data breach at Equifax, it is critical to the protection of consumers that they take steps to guard their credit and identity. Please take measures to monitor your credit, shield your identity from cybercriminals, shred old documents, and conduct research before you invest.

“Additionally, parents should take further precautions to assure their children under the age of 18 are protected, both against identity theft and from dangerous online predators who will not hesitate to exploit children. Kids are often targeted so criminals can use their information to create fake IDs, open credit card accounts, take out loans years before anyone ever thinks to run a credit check on the children. The best tool for stopping this shadowy crime is prevention, including the Utah Child Identity Protection tool. 

“Last, parents and caregivers should be vigilant about children’s online activities. The Utah Attorney General’s site offers many Internet safety resources to assist parents and caregivers as they fight online predators. These perpetrators may use the Internet to share inappropriate images or content with our kids, they may ‘sextort’ children by threatening them with release of embarrassing photos or information or they may entice young people to meet them for activities that put our youth at great risk of abuse or other harm. Proactive parents can greatly reduce the risk of harm to their children.” 

The Office of the Attorney General recommends a few of the many online resources to consumers.

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