Tag Archives: Attorney general

Illinois Says to Indiana: Keep Your Petcoke and Take Ours Too

22 Dec

by Ken Davidson

Hammond corporation George J. Beemsterboer, Inc. is known to many Indiana residents as the operator of the J-Pit in Gary and a contractor at local steel mills and refineries.   As operator of the J-Pit, Beemsterboer has long been known for bringing  waste into the state of Indiana.  Now Beemsterboer is under fire for allegedly moving Petcoke out of Indiana and into Illinois.

Beemsterboer recently entered into an Agreed Interim Order with the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago.  According to a release issued by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the Order was designed to thwart a serious public health issue:

“The actions we are taking today mark a critical step forward in putting a stop to the
serious public health threat facing the residents that live near these facilities, but we will
continue to push for the strongest possible protections to ensure these conditions can
never happen again here in Chicago and across the state,”

Earlier in the month, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel requested that citizens experiencing any problems with petcoke call the City’s 311 number.  Citizens reportedly complained of dust so thick they could not open their windows last summer.

The petcoke which was stored in Illinois by Beemsterboer came from a local refinery.  There are several refineries in the area which produce petcoke including BP in Whiting.  There are also refineries in Joliet and Lemont IL.  The most likely scenario now will be that petcoke from all of these refineries will be stored and shipped somewhere in Indiana or Wisconsin.

Petcoke is a byproduct of petroleum production.  The material is similar to coal in appearance.  The substance has been a byproduct of refining since the 1930’s.  It has become a national issue lately for several reasons.  The sheer quantity of petcoke has grown as local refineries have expanded.  The market for petcoke now lies outside the US, so it is primarily shipped overseas.  China is the main purchaser of petcoke products as many countries no longer allow the burning of petcoke as fuel.   Because shipping is the primary source of transporting the product, petcoke must be stored near water-in this case Lake Michigan or a local tributary.  Conveniently, Beemsterboer announced the purchase of the vacant State Line Energy plant after the Illinois Attorney General filed suit against them seeking to have the product removed from Illinois.  It has been reported that Beemsterboer will develop the State Line Energy site into condominiums.

One thing is clear, Beemsterboer is not storing petcoke in Chicago anymore.  So far officials have been mum as to future plans for storage of the material.

petcoke loaded onto barge in chicago

Petcoke is loaded onto a barge for shipment overseas

petcoke mountain in chicago

Petcoke Mountain on Chicago’s southeast side.

 

 

 

Attorney General returns record amount of unclaimed property in 2013

11 Dec

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced today that the Unclaimed Property Division has recently broken its record for the most claims paid in a single calendar year. With more than $58 million in claims paid, the division has beaten its goal of breaking the 2006 record which stood at $53.9 million.
“It’s great to break this record, especially knowing it benefits our fellow Hoosier citizens,” Zoeller said. “This is a result of greater use of social media to get the word out about where to find their money but mostly it’s from the hard work of the men and women who serve in our Unclaimed Property division.”
In total, the state’s unclaimed property database holds more than $380 million in assets. In 2012, the Attorney General’s Office returned 85,150 properties totaling $44.8 million in unclaimed property. To date this year, 93,615 properties valued at $58,480,934.88 have been returned.
Several of the factors that have contributed to this record include increased reporting compliance, improved search tools on IndianaUnclaimed.gov, a new mobile app, increased online marketing, the addition of a proactive investigator, and the hard work of an experienced claim staff.
Zoeller, along with Buck the Money Dog, visited the unclaimed property office today to celebrate the milestone and encourage everyone to visit www.IndianaUnclaimed.gov to search for their name, their relatives, neighbors and friends’ names. “The holidays are a great time to look for unclaimed funds for your family, friends and neighbors, helping others is in keeping with the spirit of the season,” Attorney General Zoeller said. The Indiana Unclaimed Property database is also mobile. Anyone can search for free through the mobile application — just use keyword Indiana Unclaimed to download. The app makes it easy to look for unclaimed property. Business owners and charitable organizations should also check annually for unclaimed property.
The Unclaimed Property database can be searched 24-hours a day, 7 days a week at the toll-free number is 1-866-IN-CLAIM (1-866-462-5246). This is a free service of the Indiana Attorney General’s Office.

State appeals tobacco arbitration ruling

5 Dec

INDIANAPOLIS — Today Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office appealed the recent arbitration panel ruling that reduces by $62.8 million the amount tobacco companies pay to Indiana to offset the costs of smoking-related illnesses.
As the lawyer for State government, Zoeller contends the arbitration panel of three retired federal judges exceeded their authority under law and the process they used prejudiced Indiana’s case. The panel unfairly judged Indiana by using a new legal definition they created after the fact and imposed retroactively; and the panel based their ruling on erroneous findings and disregarded the State’s own laws. After consulting with the legislative and executive branches, Zoeller’s office today appealed the arbitration panel’s ruling by filing a “motion to vacate” in Marion County Civil Superior Court in Indianapolis. That court retains jurisdiction over the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement between Indiana and the major tobacco companies, and has jurisdiction to hear this appeal of the arbitration panel’s ruling.
Zoeller’s office asks the Marion County court to vacate the arbitration panel’s entire award, or, in the alternative, modify the amount received. Zoeller seeks a reallocation of the amount tobacco companies pay Indiana and other states, so that Indiana would receive an amount closer to the $131.2 million payment projected and not the $68.4 million Indiana would otherwise receive next April as a result of the panel’s actions. Settlement monies that tobacco companies pay Indiana under the MSA indirectly reimburse the State for the medical costs to taxpayers of smoking-related diseases such as lung cancer, heart disease and emphysema; and the funds are used for tobacco-cessation efforts.
“Fifteen years after signing the Master Settlement Agreement that was intended to bring some closure to the issue, the big tobacco companies continue to wage a legal battle against Indiana and other states to reduce their settlement payment for the consequences of their product on the costs of health care for our citizens. Triggered by the tobacco companies themselves, this arbitration process was extremely complex, and the panel’s fundamentally flawed ruling treated Indiana unfairly compared to similar states. Through this legal action we seek ultimately to restore the tobacco payments to Indiana to more equitable levels,” Attorney General Zoeller said.
At issue in the arbitration panel’s hearings was how “diligently” Indiana enforced the MSA in 2003. In the motion, Indiana objects strenuously to the arbitration panel’s creating a new definition of “diligent enforcement” after more than a year of hearings were complete and applying it retroactively long after Indiana had finished presenting its case. Moreover, 20 other states that settled rather than continue with the laborious arbitration process were not held to the newly-created “diligent enforcement” standard Indiana was subjected to. Their settlement also adversely affected the allocation of payment reductions to non-settling states. The motion notes the panel got basic facts wrong in their analysis of enforcement efforts Indiana officials undertook going back to 2002. See this excerpt from page 24 of the motion to vacate:
“In addition to irrationally faulting Indiana for things it did not do (incorrectly asserting that it did not establish its Tobacco Enforcement Unit until October 2003) and not acknowledging the many positive things it did do (filing 14 lawsuits when other states filed none), the panel manifestly disregarded the very framework it used to determine whether a state was diligent or not. Thus, the panel applied its own factors in an entirely arbitrary and internally inconsistent fashion, or departed from them entirely.”
A hearing date has not yet been scheduled on the state’s motion to vacate. Among the defendants are the major tobacco companies often referred to as the “Participating Manufacturers” or PMs including the corporate parent of Philip Morris Tobacco Company, the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, the Lorillard Tobacco Company and several other cigarette manufacturers.

Johnson Sentencing Delayed Again

25 Nov

by Ken Davidson

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Amid reports of uncharacteristic confidence on the part of the Defendant, the sentencing of David Johnson of A-1 Dave’s Tree Service has been continued again.  The official reason given was “a dispute of guideline applications in this matter.”  Sources familiar with the process continue to stress that this is an unusual number of delays in the matter.  Such delays usually indicate cooperation with the Government-not good news for Lake County Democrats.  The Motion indicates that Assistant United States Attorney Gary Bell had no objection to the continuance.  The hearing will be held on February 6, 2014 absent any further delay.

Johnson pled guilty to bribery involving federal programs in October 25, 2012.  Co-Defendant Alfonso Salinas subseqently pled guilty on May 13, 2013.  Salinas was sentenced on August 13 and reported to the Bureau of Prisons on October 1 to serve his 42 month sentence.

Johnson previously had been sued for racketeering by the Attorney General of Indiana in the “Sidewalks for Votes” scheme in East Chicago.  Despite the fact that he settled that case, Dave’s Tree Service continued to receive local government contracts.  This was particularly the case in Hammond where Johnson was the preferred contractor for tree services.  Dave’s Tree still does work in the City of Hammond but it is not clear at this time if any of those jobs are a result of City contracts.  

 

AG Zoeller Announces Settlement with Google Over Privacy Settings

19 Nov

Gazette Staff

 

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced a multistate settlement agreement today with Google Inc. for allegedly overriding Safari’s internet browser security settings to collect valuable user information.

Through its DoubleClick advertising platform, Google generates revenue by facilitating the transmission of third-party cookies — small files set in Internet users’ Web browsers that allow third-party advertisers to gather information about those users, including, depending on the type of cookie, their Web surfing habits.

Zoeller along with the Attorneys General of 36 States and the District of Columbia accused Google of circumventing the privacy settings which would have blocked all third party cookies. Zoeller said the company’s actions were in violation of state consumer protection and related computer privacy laws.

“Google allegedly circumvented Safari’s default privacy settings – without consumers’ consent – to allow third-party advertisers to set cookies in order to better target advertisements to consumers,” Zoeller said. “Unsuspecting Safari users continued to believe that cookies were automatically blocked. Today’s settlement underscores the continuing need for states to ensure consumers’ privacy remains protected.”

Apple’s Safari Web browser generally blocks third-party cookies in its default privacy settings, including cookies used by DoubleClick to track a consumer’s browsing history. From June 1, 2011 until Feb. 15, 2012, Google altered its DoubleClick coding to circumvent the Safari default privacy settings, without consumers’ knowledge or consent, enabling advertisers to set third-party cookies on consumers’ Safari browsers. Google disabled this coding method in February 2012 after the practice was widely reported on the Internet and in media.

In order to resolve the allegations, Google agreed to pay the attorneys general $17 million and Indiana’s share is $354,573. Google also agreed to injunctive relief that requires it to do the following:

  • Not to override a browser’s cookie blocking settings without the consumer’s consent or unless it is necessary to so in order to detect, prevent or otherwise address fraud, security or technical issues.
  • Not misrepresent or omit material information to consumers about how Google serves advertisements to their browsers.
  • Improve the information it provides to consumers regarding cookies, their purposes, and how they can be managed by consumers using Google’s products or services.
  • Maintain systems designed to ensure the expiration of the third-party cookies placed on Safari browsers while their default settings had been circumvented.

Rx Drug Task Force launches toolkit

11 Nov

INDIANAPOLIS – Attorney General Greg Zoeller joined the Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force today to launch a toolkit designed to help the state’s physicians navigate new rules for prescribing addictive pain medication. Zoeller made the announcement during the 4th Annual Prescription Drug Abuse Symposium in Indianapolis. Indiana’s Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force in partnership with the Indiana State Medical Association developed the toolkit titled, “First Do No Harm: The Indiana Healthcare Providers Guide to the Safe, Effective Management of Chronic Non-Terminal Pain.”This provider toolkit is based on expert opinion and recognized standards of care, with input from healthcare providers representing multiple specialties from all corners of the state,” Zoeller said. “It is our hope this new resource helps physicians understand and comply with the new prescribing rule recently adopted by the Medical Licensing Board. The new rule addresses the prescribing of pain medication for patients who have chronic, non-terminal pain in hopes of stemming the tides of addiction, doctor shopping and overprescribing.”

A recent study by Trust for America’s Health revealed the number of deaths caused by overdoses in Indiana has quadrupled since 1999This year, the Indiana General Assembly passed legislation which charged the Medical Licensing Board with developing new rules regarding prescribing controlled substances and strengthening the authority of the Attorney General’s office to inspect physician records in overprescribing cases. The two emergency rules stem in part from recommendations made by the task force.
Zoeller said the prescribing rule, adopted last week, aims to ensure patients are well informed about their prescriptions and physicians closely monitor patients to identify cases of misuse and abuse. Beginning Dec. 15, physicians will be required to monitor certain patient’s history via the state’s drug monitoring system called INSPECT which reveals what medications have been prescribed to a patient. Zoeller said this check can prevent someone from “doctor shopping” or obtaining multiple prescriptions for the same drug from different physicians
“The toolkit was developed by a diverse group of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, academics and public health professionals from across the state,” McMahan said. “Our goal is to educate Indiana healthcare providers on why these state-of-the art recommendations for safe prescribing are important and how to easily implement them in everyday practice. To help with that effort, the toolkit provides resources, templates and even talking points for those difficult-to-start conversations with patients.Zoeller said the growing number of cases involving licensed health professionals caught diverting drugs, overprescribing or fraudulently writing prescriptions is one reason he created the Prescription Drug Abuse Taskforce in 2012. Zoeller chairs the task force which is made up of state legislators, law enforcement, health officials, pharmacists, state and local agencies and education providers.

Earlier this year, Zoeller and the task force launched a statewide public awareness campaign and a website, http://www.BitterPill.IN.gov, to serve as a one-stop-shop for consumers looking for information about prescription drug abuse and where to find help.

As Predicted, Holder Uses Trayvon Martin to Shill for Repeal of Stand Your Ground

16 Jul

As Predicted, Holder Uses Trayvon Martin to Shill Anti-Gun Rhetoric

Posted on July 16, 2013

It did not take Attorney General Eric Holder long to call for an end to Stand Your Ground laws after the George Zimmerman acquittal.  At least he had the decency to admit that the Trayvon Martin case had absolutely nothing to do with the stand your ground defense:

“Separate and apart from the case that has drawn the nation’s attention, it’s time to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods. (Cheers, applause.) These laws try to fix something that was never broken. There has always been a legal defense for using deadly force if — and the “if” is important — if no safe retreat is available.”  Attorney General Eric Holder speaking to NAACP Convention July 16, 2013

Of course, most people will not see the disconnect between the Trayvon Martin shooting and stand your ground laws.  As a politician first and a law enforcement officer second, Eric Holder knows this and that is precisely why he chose this crowd to make this pitch.  You see, the Attorney General of the United States has somewhat of an obligation to demonstrate some level of understanding of the case.  Those to whom he is speaking do not.  AG Holder knows that they will return to their communities throughout the nation and the message will be “repeal stand your ground for Trayvon.”

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