The Office of Attorney General fights for environmental justice every day by enforcing environmental protections, fighting the climate crisis, and working to ensure that every District resident has access to clean water and air, no matter where they live in the city. At OAG, we recognize the critical importance of protecting the earth for generations to come.
Since 2014, OAG has recovered $60,156,399 to promote environmental justice in the District through legal action. No one is above the law when it comes to the environment, which OAG has made clear by suing oil and gas companies for misleading consumers about their role in global warming, holding bad actors accountable for toxic lead that harms kids, advocating for federal policy fixes, and bringing lawsuits to protect our air and water from pollution.
OAG has established a track record of protecting District residents from environmental harms and is dedicated to continuing to do all it can to protect the earth and the District in the short and long terms.
Listed below are the legal wins OAG has secured to promote environmental justice, as well as selected ongoing OAG efforts:
Clean Water Actions
- Monsanto: In May 2020, OAG filed a lawsuit against Monsanto for producing, promoting and selling toxic polychlorinated biphenyls for nearly 50 years, despite knowing that these chemicals would pollute waterways, kill wildlife, and cause significant health problems in humans, including cancer and liver damage. In July 2020, OAG reached a settlement with Monsanto, requiring the company to pay $52 million, mostly dedicated to cleaning up District waterways.
- 2201 Channing ST NE: In August 2018, OAG filed suit against a group of auto repair and sales businesses in Ward 5 for repeatedly spilling toxic oil onto neighborhood sidewalks and streets, the culmination of a pattern of environmental violations spanning a decade. In 2021, OAG announced a settlement with the owner of 2201 Channing St. NE requiring the businesses to shape up environmental compliance, and pay the District $350,000 in civil penalties.
- GenOn Holdings: OAG investigated the major U.S. fossil-fuel power producer’s Potomac River Generating Station for allowing oil to seep from underground storage tanks into an abandoned stormwater drainage system and into the Potomac. In 2020, GenOn Holdings was required to pay $2.5 million to the District to resolve allegations that one of its powerplants illegally discharged oil and other pollutants directly into the Potomac River.
- Miss Dallas Trucking: In 2018, one of the company’s dump trucks crashed into a concrete bank while exiting I-295 in the District and spilled 900 gallons of automotive fluid into a stormwater canal that drains directly into the Potomac River. OAG sued the company when it refused to pay for clean-up, and in 2021, it was ordered to pay $31,399 to cover the costs and a $50,000 civil penalty.
- South Capitol Improvement: In 2021, OAG sued the developer, owner and manager of a 195-unit affordable housing complex located at 4001 South Capitol St, NW in Ward 8 for discharging polluted water containing high levels of petroleum, grease, and metals like nickel into a storm sewer system that drained into Oxon Run and the Potomac River. The lawsuit is ongoing.
- Anacostia River Clean Up: The District is the lead government agency in the investigation and remediation for the Anacostia River Sediment Project, an effort to address contamination in a nine-mile portion of the Anacostia.
- Chesapeake Bay protection: In 2020, OAG, along with Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to protect the Chesapeake Bay and local waters, including the Potomac River. The states alleged that the EPA has failed to uphold the terms of a multistate agreement to reduce pollution levels in the Chesapeake Bay. The lawsuit is ongoing.
- Supporting the Clean Water Act: In February 2018, OAG and 10 states filed suit against the Trump Administration for suspending the 2015 Clean Water Rule, a federal regulation designed to ensure that lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands are properly protected under the federal Clean Water Act. Under President Biden, the EPA has changed course.
Clean Air Actions
- Howard University: In January 2019, OAG reached a settlement that required Howard University to address Air Quality Permits that were overdue or missing and pay a $240,000 civil penalty for violating District law. The university is also required to implement an environmental improvement project estimated at $900,000 and an environmental management plan estimated at $300,000.
- Greyhound: In 2018, OAG sued after discovering numerous violations by Greyhound for allowing buses to idle at Union Station for longer than the District’s legal limit. In 2020, OAG reached a settlement with the company in 2020 to change its practices and pay a $125,000 penalty to the District.
- Supporting the Clean Air Act: In September 2019, OAG and 26 states, Los Angeles, New York City and the District filed a lawsuit to prevent the Trump administration from undermining California—and the District’s—authority under the Clean Air Act to set vehicle emissions standards.
Lead Hazard Actions
- 6145-6149 Kansas Ave NE: In 2020, OAG sued the landlords of 6145-6149 Kansas Ave NE over housing code violations, including mold, leaks, infestations, fire safety violations, and toxic lead. In December 2021, a judge granted $4.75 million in penalties—including $3.2 million for lead violations. The judge also granted more than $615,000 in restitution for tenants to refund the rent they paid while there were housing code violations and required the landlord to shape up its practices and hire a new property manager.
- Universal Flooring and Remodeling: OAG investigated the company, discovering that on at least 44 residential home renovations, it failed to ensure that drywall removal and other work that could have disturbed lead-based paint was performed by certified renovators. Universal Flooring and Remodeling settled with OAG and agreed to pay $25,000 in penalties to the District and follow DC law.
- Mohammad Y. Sikder: OAG investigated Mohammad Y. Sikder and several of his companies, after Sikder pleaded guilty to federal criminal violations for renovating at least 26 homes across DC without taking legally required precautions to protect against possible lead exposure and environmental contamination. Sikder settled OAG’s legal complaint and agreed to pay $400,000 in penalties and improve health and safety protocols.
- Meredith Lyda and Shaw Mostashari: OAG investigated Meredith Lyda and Shaw Mostashari, and several corporations under their control, for failing to disclose the presence of lead-based paint or hazards to tenants in residential properties at 4242 6th Street SE and 433 Atlantic Street SE. They settled in May 2021 with OAG and agreed to pay a $35,000 penalty and disclose the presence of lead at the properties.
Combatting Climate Change
- Big Oil companies: In 2020, OAG sued Exxon Mobil, BP, Chevron, and Shell for systematically and intentionally misleading District consumers about the role their products play in causing climate change. These major players in the fossil fuel industry knew as early as the 1950s that emissions from burning oil and gas posed an existential threat to humanity—and embarked on a multi-decade, multi-million-dollar public relations campaign to foment doubt and hostility towards climate research in order to protect profits. The lawsuit is ongoing.
- Solar Power: In March 2022, OAG filed a complaint against Pepco for systemically mishandling community solar projects, potentially overcharging more than 6,800 District households on their monthly electric bills, and undermining the District’s efforts to meet its clean energy goals.
- AltaGas/Washington Gas: In early 2017, AltaGas, a large Canadian natural gas company, announced plans to acquire the parent company of WGL. OAG intervened on behalf of the District and negotiated a settlement, which included commitments expand solar energy in DC, and to provide $4.2 million for energy efficiency and energy conservation.
- Pepco/Exelon merger: In Spring 2014, Exelon Corporation, a nuclear energy generating conglomerate based in Chicago, announced its plans to acquire the parent company of Pepco. OAG intervened on behalf of the District, after two years, settled the matter with Exelon for over $78 million in customer benefits, including $11.25 million set aside for energy conservation and energy efficiency programs.
- Clean Power Plan: In August 2019, AG Racine joined 22 states and 7 local governments to file a lawsuit challenging the EPA’s withdrawal of the Clean Power Plan. Under the Biden administration, the EPA changed course.
Reporting Legal Violations
District residents should report suspected violations of environmental law to DOEE through a smartphone app available here.