This May, my office filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency to maintain fuel efficiency standards for vehicles that will protect the environment and save consumers money. We also asked a court to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for promoting their products while knowing the harmful effects they have on the environment.
We also helped Washington state farmworkers win a major victory at our state Supreme Court. Until this past month, many Washington farmworkers paid by the amount of fruits or vegetables they pick (piece-rate pay) did not receive any pay for time spent on the job in training or traveling to their worksite. That’s not right. We advocated for this to change, and the state Supreme Court agreed with our argument. The court decision ensures Washington state farmworkers receive hourly pay for all the work they do, in addition to their piece-rate pay.
My office also serves as a watchdog for homeowners facing foreclosure, holding accountable those who prey on vulnerable Washingtonians. We recently filed an enforcement action against a company scamming foreclosed Washington state homeowners.
We will continue standing up for Washingtonians.
In this issue:
Thank you for following the work of the Attorney General’s Office.
In 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopted emissions and fuel efficiency standards for cars and light-duty trucks. The standards cover model year vehicles between 2017 and 2025, and become increasingly stringent over time. When the EPA put these in place, they also required a mid-term review by 2018 to determine whether the standards were still viable for model years 2022 to 2025. The agency completed that review in 2017 and found that the current standards were achievable for future model years.
However, in April, EPA head Scott Pruitt decided to roll back the standards, without providing any new information that would invalidate the evidence the EPA used in its midterm review. The vehicle emissions standards protect the environment and save consumers money with better fuel economy. Pruitt’s action was arbitrary and capricious, and therefore illegal. I, along with 16 other states, filed a lawsuit to challenge Pruitt’s decision. The EPA once again is ignoring the needs of consumers, its duty to protect the environment and most importantly, the law.
Foreclosure can be a confusing and vulnerable time for homeowners. Homeowners may not know that if their home sells for more than what is owed on the mortgage, they can recover the surplus funds through a relatively simple process. My office found that one company, Real Estate Investment Network (REIN), was approaching homeowners after foreclosure to assist them in recovering these funds. The company misrepresented the process as difficult and long, neither of which is true.
This May, my office filed a lawsuit against REIN, alleging that this company scams foreclosed homeowners out of tens of thousands of dollars. We believe the company uses a high-pressure sales pitch that creates a false sense of urgency, misrepresents the content and purpose of documents and the process for recovering surplus funds. Although REIN returns a percentage of the recovered surplus funds to the consumer, REIN’s cut often exceeds 50 percent of the total recovery. In one instance, REIN kept $90,000 out of $134,000.
In our lawsuit, we asked a King County Superior Court judge to order REIN to halt its deceptive practices and restrict its fee collection to the 5 percent allowed by law. Judge Catherine Moore agreed. Surplus funds from a foreclosure sale can be the lifeline a person needs to get back on their feet. I will hold companies accountable for preying on homeowners facing foreclosure.
These days, many people know the effects fossil fuels have had on climate change, but two California cities allege that fossil fuel companies have known for decades about the harm their fossil fuels cause. In September 2017, the city attorneys for San Francisco and Oakland filed lawsuits against BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell. The lawsuit alleges the companies promoted pervasive use of fossil fuels, despite knowing their role in climate change.
The cities argue that sea level rise and other climate effects harm them. Washington is not immune, either. Washington experiences many negative effects of climate change, including rising ambient temperatures, a diminished and unpredictable snowpack necessary for water consumption and hydropower generation, and ocean warming and acidification, which is harmful to Washington’s shellfishery.
The companies filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing the complaint poses a “political question.” I joined California and New Jersey in sending a “friend of the court,” or amicus, brief, asking the court to deny the companies’ motion. These powerful corporations must be held accountable for hiding the evidence about the harms caused by fossil fuels.
Recently, a case before the Washington State Supreme Court sought to determine whether piece-rate workers should be paid for the time they spend on the job, but not picking. Piece-rate workers often work on farms, where they are paid per bucket of fruit or vegetables that they pick. Many farmworkers in Washington are paid this way.
Farmworkers naturally don’t spend every moment of the day picking. Like many other jobs, farmworkers need to travel and attend trainings and meetings for their work, among other things. Like other jobs, they should be paid for this time.
I advocated on the side of the farmworkers by submitting a “friend of the court” brief to the court. In the brief, I argued that piece-rate workers should be paid for time they are working but not picking. The court agreed. Now, in addition to their piece-rate pay, these workers are entitled to hourly pay for the time they spend on the job doing activities other than picking.
Farmworkers do some of the hardest work, and they deserve pay for every hour they spend on the job.
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. I was honored to take part in two events celebrating the act and exploring how we can continue to improve in the future. At the Housing Development Consortium’s event, I sat down with Manager of Policy and Equitable Development for the City of Seattle Emily Alvarado and discussed the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act and how my office works on issues related to fair housing. At the Annual Conference on Ending Homelessness, hosted by the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance in Yakima, I shared how my office is working to ensure fair housing for all Washingtonians.
I had the opportunity to discuss another important case in my office with the very people it affects – Hanford workers. In 2015, I sued the Obama Administration for failing to ensure worker safety at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. I shared an update about that ongoing case, and celebrated the passage of an important law for Hanford workers that will help Hanford workers access health care if they become sick as a result of their work.
Public service has always been an important part of my life. Years ago, I spent a year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, better learning the needs and inequities in marginalized communities. Those experiences continue to impact the way I approach my career in public service. On May 20, I was proud to join incoming and long-time members of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps at the JVC Northwest Division’s annual event. I am continually excited to see so many people dedicated to volunteering and giving back to their communities.
The Seattle Channel
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Jun 05 2018