Newsletter: Fighting District Polluters
Air pollution harms the health of thousands of people who live in, work in, and visit the District of Columbia—especially children, the elderly, and communities of color. In fact, approximately 10,000 District children already have breathing problems from asthma, which can lead to an increased risk of long-term health issues.
Last week, following a joint investigation with the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE), our office sued Greyhound for repeatedly ignoring District air pollution control laws and allowing its buses to idle at Union Station for longer than the DC legal limit. The investigation uncovered that Greyhound failed to comply with the law even after receiving 50 enforcement notices. With this lawsuit, OAG is seeking to stop Greyhound from violating the District’s anti-idling regulations and pay more than $200,000 in penalties.
Over the past year, thanks to the support of the Council of the District of Columbia, OAG has devoted new resources to protecting the environment and the health and safety of District residents. OAG is deeply involved in the District’s ongoing cleanup of the Anacostia River and has joined numerous multistate lawsuits to stop the Trump administration from rolling back important environmental protections. Our office has also filed suit against Ward 5 businesses that repeatedly spilled toxic oil onto sidewalks and streets and against a Ward 7 landlord who exposed tenants to toxic lead paint.
If you suspect violations of environmental law, please report it to DOEE by calling the 311 hotline or on the mobile app.
Karl A. Racine
WIN: Greenlight in Case Against Hidden “Resort Fees”
This week, D.C. Superior Court denied Marriott’s move to dismiss our lawsuit against the company over its deceptive “resort fees.” OAG’s lawsuit alleges that Marriott hid the true price of hotel rooms from consumers and charged hidden resort fees to increase profits. Marriott’s deceptive and misleading pricing practices and failure to disclose fees harm consumers and violate the District’s consumer protection laws. Our lawsuit to stop this unlawful bait-and-switch advertising and hold Marriott accountable will proceed. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest updates.
Teaching Workers About Their Pay Stubs
OAG recently joined DC Jobs with Justice, Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and Fair Budget Coalition to teach residents how to understand their pay stub and protect themselves if their employer is not paying them what they're owed. This Pay Stub Clinic is the latest effort by OAG to protect low-income District workers from wage theft and payroll fraud. OAG has launched over 30 investigations and recovered hundreds of thousands of dollars from businesses that have stolen wages from DC workers. Workers can learn about their rights to fair wages, overtime pay, and sick leave with our free resources. Workers who believe their rights have been violated can report wage theft to OAG at (202) 442-9854.
Making Railways Safer
Every day, over 220 trains pass through, depart, or arrive in the District, and it's crucial that we ensure these trains operate safely. AG Racine joined a coalition of 12 AGs to oppose the Federal Railroad Administration’s effort to block a minimum two-person crew requirement for trains. Research shows that limiting the crew to a single worker—usually an engineer—increases the likelihood of mistakes because this crew member works long and often irregular hours while performing physically and cognitively demanding tasks. This data-driven public safety policy can help keep residents and commuters safe. Many thanks to the D.C. office of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen for working with OAG on this important rail network safety issue.
Enforcing the Constitution
Last Thursday, AG Racine and Maryland Attorney General Frosh were back in court before the full panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to argue that their anti-corruption lawsuit against President Trump for violating the Constitution must be allowed to move forward. Every day, President Trump openly and brazenly violates the Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution by profiting from business transactions with state and foreign governments through his hotel in the District. AG Racine will not back down in the fight to stop the president from continuing to profit from his office. Watch the Attorneys General discuss the strength of their case during a press conference following the hearing.
Keeping Kids in School
OAG staff was back at Sousa Middle School last week as part of its "I Belong Here" anti-truancy program, leading lessons that disrupt negative behaviors associated with skipping school. OAG mentors talked about the power of speaking up for yourself and how to be good role models. Last school year, Sousa Middle School had the highest percent of in-seat attendance out of all comparably sized DC middle schools and was only one of three middle schools in DC to see gains in attendance! Learn about OAG’s other efforts to keep kids in school.
Lifting Up Young Voices
AG Racine joined U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan this week to hear from DCPS students who wrote profoundly about the Equal Protection Clause as part of a local essay contest. These young people thought critically about our rights under the law, learned about how far we have come as a nation in understanding the meaning of “equal protection,” and considered where we may still have work to do. If you know a middle school student who is passionate about issues that affect District residents, encourage them to register for the “Do the Write Thing Challenge,” a national essay contest about reducing gun violence that OAG locally sponsors.
Helping District Residents Thrive
At a packed “State of Southeast” Townhall panel discussion hosted by ANC8C Commissioner Salim Adofo, AG Racine and government and community partners shared information and resources with attendees to help them thrive. AG Racine spoke with Ward 8 residents about OAG’s efforts to enhance public safety and the Council’s support to help expand OAG’s Cure the Streets violence interruption pilot program to three new sites: two in Ward 8 and one in Ward 7. OAG is also working hard to protect tenants and preserve affordable housing, fight discrimination, and more. AG Racine noted that one of the best ways for residents to help strengthen their own communities is to keep an open line of communication with their elected officials and government agencies. If you have feedback, suggestions, or questions about OAG’s work, call us at (202) 727-3400 or email OAGCommunity@dc.gov.
Preventing Opioid Overdose Deaths
Along with every Attorney General in the country, AG Racine is urging the Senate to pass The FIGHT Fentanyl Act, which allows law enforcement to prosecute traffickers of fentanyl, the synthetic opioid that contributes to thousands of overdose deaths a year. In the most recent data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 72,000 drug-related deaths in the U.S. in 2017 and roughly 40 percent involved fentanyl or a fentanyl-related compound. In 2018, the District saw 213 opioid-overdose deaths and roughly 80 percent involved fentanyl or a fentanyl-related compound. The FIGHT Fentanyl Act will ensure law enforcement agencies and courts can keep those who traffic in this deadly substance off the streets.