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AG Reyes: Historic $26 Billion Settlement Reached with Opioid Companies

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes today announced a historic $26 billion agreement that will help bring desperately needed relief to people across the country who are struggling with opioid addiction. The agreement includes Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen – the nation’s three major pharmaceutical distributors – and Johnson & Johnson, which manufactured and marketed opioids. The agreement also requires significant industry changes that will help prevent this type of crisis from ever happening again. The agreement would resolve investigations and litigation over the companies’ roles in creating and fueling the opioid epidemic. 

Utah’s portion of the settlement is 1.1889%, for a total of $309,114,000 to be paid over 18 years. 

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said: “This is a reckoning long overdue. It has taken us years of hard-fought investigation, prosecution and negotiation to arrive at this landmark settlement. But that is nothing compared to the years of suffering from so many in our state.”

“The opioid epidemic has torn apart families and needlessly killed thousands of Utahns,” said AG Reyes. “It continues to ravage lives every day. Families across our state have shared with me their heart-wrenching stories about loved ones struggling with the horrible disease of addiction or who have overdosed and died.”

“On their behalf, it has been my genuine honor to fight back and hold these and other companies accountable for helping to create and fuel this crisis. No amount of money will compensate for even a single life lost. But this settlement would force defendants to pay a historic amount for much-needed treatment and recovery services in Utah along with programs to prevent future addiction and heartache,” Reyes added.

“Perhaps, most importantly, this puts an end to the business practices and conduct by defendants that brought us to this tragic point. I’m proud of the very bi-partisan and collaborative work among states. America may seem divided in many ways, but this reaffirms our tradition of coming together during disasters and when our nation is under siege, Reyes said.”

“The impacts of the opioid epidemic have been and continue to be devastating to thousands of Utahns and their families, so I appreciate the Department of Commerce and the Attorney General’s Office negotiating these settlements on behalf of Utah,” Gov. Cox said. “I look forward to working with the Legislature to determine the best use of these funds to benefit Utah citizens affected by the opioid crisis.”

“These companies failed to protect consumers from the dangers of opioids, even when they claimed to have systems in place to do so,” said Margaret Busse, executive director of the Department of Commerce. “While the harm to individuals and families in Utah and across the country cannot be quantified, these settlements play an important role in holding these companies accountable for their misconduct. We will work with the governor to ensure that the dollars that come from the settlements will be used to help those impacted by the opioid epidemic.”

The agreement would resolve the claims of both state and local governments across the country, including the nearly 4,000 that have filed lawsuits in federal and state courts. Following today’s agreement, states have 30 days to sign onto the deal and local governments in the participating states will have up to 150 days to join to secure a critical mass of participating states and local governments. States and their local governments will receive maximum payments if each state and its local governments join together in support of the agreement.

Funding Overview:

  • The three distributors will collectively pay up to $21 billion over 18 years.
  • Johnson & Johnson will pay up to $5 billion over nine years with up to $3.7 billion paid during the first three years.
  • The total funding distributed will be determined by the overall degree of participation by both litigating and non-litigating state and local governments.
  • The substantial majority of the money is to be spent on the treatment and prevention of opioid addiction.
  • Each state’s share of the funding has been determined by agreement among the states using a formula that takes into account the impact of the crisis on the state – the number of overdose deaths, the number of residents with substance use disorder, and the number of opioids prescribed – and the population of the state.

Injunctive Relief Overview:

  • The 10-year agreement will result in court orders requiring Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen to:
    • Establish a centralized independent clearinghouse to provide all three distributors and state regulators with aggregated data and analytics about where drugs are going and how often, eliminating blind spots in the current systems used by distributors.
    • Use data-driven systems to detect suspicious opioid orders from customer pharmacies.
    • Terminate customer pharmacies’ ability to receive shipments, and report those companies to state regulators, when they show certain signs of diversion.
    • Prohibit shipping of and report suspicious opioid orders.
    • Prohibit sales staff from influencing decisions related to identifying suspicious opioid orders.
    • Require senior corporate officials to engage in regular oversight of anti-diversion efforts.
  • The 10-year agreement will result in court orders requiring Johnson & Johnson to:
    • Stop selling opioids.
    • Not fund or provide grants to third parties for promoting opioids.
    • Not lobby on activities related to opioids.
    • Share clinical trial data under the Yale University Open Data Access Project.

This settlement comes as a result of investigations by state attorneys general into whether the three distributors fulfilled their legal duty to refuse to ship opioids to pharmacies that submitted suspicious drug orders and whether Johnson & Johnson misled patients and doctors about the addictive nature of opioid drugs.

Tragically, just last year, opioid overdose deaths rose to a record 93,000, a nearly 30 percent increase over the prior year. Many, many more have seen their lives torn apart by the disease of addiction. The damage also impacts their families and friends and their broader communities that suffer the consequences.

A previous version of this deal in principle was announced in 2019 and included the opioid manufacturer Teva. Negotiations with Teva are ongoing and are no longer part of this agreement. Today’s deal comes on the heels of previously announced opioid settlements with Purdue Pharma, McKinsey Consulting, Mallinckrodt, and Insys Therapeutics. Combined these earlier matters will generate approximately $6.7 billion for opioid abatement, which in addition to today’s agreement brings the collective opioid efforts of the attorneys general to $32.7 billion. These opioid cases represent the largest attorney general multi-state enforcement actions in history other than the tobacco master settlement agreement.

Click here to view the entire settlement agreement.

Click here to view a FAQ regarding the opioid deal.

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Utah AG Leads Bipartisan Lawsuit against Tech Giant Google

Utah v. Google says Google Illegally Maintains an App Store Monopoly; Unfairly Edges Out Competition

SALT LAKE CITY – Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes led a coalition of 37 attorneys general to file a lawsuit against Google in California. Utah v. Google alleges exclusionary conduct relating to the Google Play Store for Android. This antitrust lawsuit is the newest legal action against the tech giant, claiming illegal, anticompetitive, and/or unfair business practices.   Reyes and the States accuse Google of using its dominance to unfairly restrict competition with Google Play Store, harming consumers by limiting choice and driving up app prices. In addition to Utah, the named party in the filing, the lawsuit is co-led by AGs in New York, Tennessee, and North Carolina.

“Google’s monopoly is a menace to the marketplace. Google Play is not fair play. Google must be held accountable for harming small businesses and consumers. It must stop using its monopolistic power and hyper-dominant market position to unlawfully leverage billions of added dollars from smaller companies, competitors and consumers beyond what should be paid,” said Utah Attorney General Reyes. 

“Most consumers have no idea that for years Google has imposed unnecessary fees far beyond the market rates for in-app transactions, unlawfully inflating costs for many services, upgrades and other purchases made through apps downloaded on the Google Play Store. As a result, a typical American consumer may have paid hundreds if not thousands of dollars more than needed over many years,” Reyes added. “Utah and the other states in our coalition are fighting back to protect our citizens and innovative app developers—including many small businesses across America—from Google’s unlawful practices.”

According to the lawsuit, the heart of the case centers on Google’s exclusionary conduct, which substantially shuts out competing app distribution channels. Google also requires that app developers that offer their apps through the Google Play Store use Google Billing as a middleman. This arrangement, which ties a payment processing system to an app distribution channel forces app consumers to pay Google’s commission – up to 30% – on in-app purchases of digital content made by consumers through apps that are distributed via the Google Play Store. This commission is much higher than the commission that consumers would pay if they had the ability to choose one of Google’s competitors instead. The lawsuit alleges that Google works to discourage or prevent competition, violating federal and state antitrust laws. Google had earlier promised app developers and device manufacturers that it would keep Android “open source,” allowing developers to create compatible apps and distribute them without unnecessary restrictions.  The lawsuit says Google did not keep that promise. 

Google Closed the Android App Distribution Ecosystem to Competitors

When Google launched its Android OS, it originally marketed it as an “open source” platform. By promising to keep Android open, Google successfully enticed “OEMs”—mobile device manufacturers such as Samsung—and “MNOs”—mobile network operators such as Verizon—to adopt Android, and more importantly, to forgo competing with Google’s Play Store at that time. Once Google had obtained the “critical mass” of Android OS adoption, Google moved to close the Android OS ecosystem—and the relevant Android App Distribution Market—to any effective competition by, among other things, requiring OEMs and MNOs to enter into various contractual and other restraints. These contractual restraints disincentivize and restrict OEMs and MNOs from competing (or fostering competition) in the relevant market. The lawsuit alleges that Google’s conduct constitutes unlawful monopoly maintenance, among other claims.

In aid of Google’s efforts discussed above, the AGs allege that Google also engaged in the following conduct, all aimed at enhancing and protecting Google’s monopoly position over Android app distribution:

  • Google imposes technical barriers that strongly discourage or effectively prevent third-party app developers from distributing apps outside of the Google Play Store. Google builds into Android a series of security warnings (regardless of actual security risk) and other barriers that discourage users from downloading apps from any source outside Google’s Play Store, effectively foreclosing app developers and app stores from direct distribution to consumers.
  • Google has not allowed Android to be “open source” for many years, effectively cutting off potential competition. Google forces OEMs that whish to sell devices that run Android to enter into agreements called “Android Compatibility Commitments” or ACCs. Under these “take it or leave it” agreements, OEMs must promise not to create or implement any variants or versions of Android that deviate from the Google-certified version of Android.
  • Google’s required contracts foreclose competition by forcing Google’s proprietary apps to be “pre-loaded” on essentially all devices designed to run on the Android OS, and requires that Google’s apps be given the most prominent placement on device home screens.
  • Google “buys off” its potential competition in the market for app distribution. Google has successfully persuaded OEMs and MNOs not to compete with Google’s Play Store by entering into arrangements that reward OEMs and MNOs with a share of Google’s monopoly profits.
  • Google forces app developers and app users alike to use Google’s payment processing service, Google Play Billing, to process payments for in-app purchases of content consumed within the app. Thus, Google is unlawfully tying the use of Google’s payment processor, which is a separate service within a separate market for payment processing within apps, to distribution through the Google Play Store. By forcing this tie, Google is able to extract an exorbitant processing fee as high as 30% for each transaction and which is more than ten times as high as the fee charged by Google’s competitors.

This effort is led by Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes, New York Attorney General Letitia James, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein and Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III. States joining the lawsuit include Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.

Click here to see Frequently Asked Questions regarding the lawsuit.

Click here to see the text of the Utah v. Google lawsuit.


Utah AG S.E.C.U.R.E. Strike Force Arrests Amusement Park Owner on Labor Trafficking Charges

OGDEN – The Utah Attorney General’s Office SECURE Strike force (Special Enforcement of Crimes Against Undocumented Residents), working closely with the Mexican Consulate and Asian Association of Utah, arrested the owner/operator of Midway West Amusements, Inc. and charged him with multiple Human Trafficking-related crimes.  Law enforcement was alerted that the Company was illegally inducing more than 20 Mexican Nationals to work for the Company’s traveling carnival.  All the workers were legally in the United States, with H2B Visas and Passports that had been kept from them to keep them from leaving the group. All the victims are safe tonight, under the supervision of the Mexican Consulate. 

The Attorney General’s office is charging Jordan Jensen of Gilbert, AZ (DOB 3/11/1990) with:

  • 3 counts Human Trafficking (2nd degree felony)
  • 9 counts Possession of Another’s Identity Documents (3rd degree felony)

The case was brought to light by two Mexican nationals, who escaped the Company, contacted the Mexican Consulate, and provided information that was useful to law enforcement.  The Victims say Midway West Amusements kept their Visas and Passports from them to prevent the people from leaving; essentially holding their legal status in the United States hostage.

“These laborers were living and working in inhumane conditions that could be dangerous to their health or even their lives. They were paid a paltry amount and had costs deducted on top of that,” said Utah AG Sean D. Reyes. “By withholding their H2B Visas, Midway West Amusements was coercing them to work under these conditions. That is a classic case of human trafficking or indentured servitude. 

Reyes continued: “At the scene of the warrants, the laborers were afraid they had done something wrong. We assured them they had not. Many of these men remind me of my own father’s experience when he came to this country. They are easily exploited. Not because they are weak or uneducated. They are just desperate to provide for their families and too often victimized.” 

Reyes added: “We are very grateful to all those who are assisting in this case:  The Mexican Consulate, The Asian Association of Utah, Polaris (the human trafficking hotline), the Ogden Police Department, and the UTIP Task Force, (Utah Trafficking in Persons).  Those relationships played an important role in a successful search warrant, allow us to provide services to the individuals involved, and will hopefully bring justice to the alleged perpetrators.”


The Consulate of Mexico in Salt Lake City recognizes the rapid intervention of the Utah Trafficking in Persons Task Force.

“We are outraged by the forced labor conditions Mexican temporary workers with H2B visas were subjected to by this company and are currently supporting the victims with the aid of our partners:  Utah Legal Services and the Asian Association of Utah”, said Jose Borjon, Consul of Mexico in Salt Lake City.

“It is only with the collaboration between our offices that we can prevent these abuses,” Mr. Borjon continued.  “We encourage all of those who are in the same situation to denounce it. Do not be afraid, individuals and labor rights must be protected, and we all must fight human trafficking.”

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Personal Privacy Oversight Commission

SALT LAKE CITY – Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes, along with Governor Spencer J. Cox and Auditor John Dougall announced their respective appointments to the newly created Personal Privacy Oversight Commission. The Commission was created by the Legislature during the 2021 session. (HB 243).

The purpose of the 12-member Commission is to develop guiding standards and best practices with respect to government privacy. The commission will also recommend minimum privacy standards for governmental entities for the Legislature in considering codifying into state statutes. Commission members will work with the new Government Operations Privacy Officer and the new State Privacy Officer, reviewing specific government privacy practices recommended by these privacy officers.

Attorney General Appointments: (63C-24-2-1(2)(d))

  • Jeff Gray, Utah Office of the Attorney General — a member with experience as a prosecutor or appellate attorney and with experience in civil liberties law; and
  • Mike Smith, Utah County Sheriff — member representing law enforcement.

“Privacy is a concern for Utahns now more than ever,” said Attorney General Reyes. “For those reasons, I am excited to help create, and work with the new Privacy Commission, which will focus on how the government handles personal information and the best ways to maintain our citizens’ privacy.”

Comments from Governor Cox and Auditor Dougall are available in this joint release. Click here.

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High Profile Arrest for AG’s ICAC Task Force

WEST JORDAN — The Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) arrested 29-year-old Joel-Lehi Organista on the evening of June 2, 2021. Organista has been charged with eight counts of Sexual Exploitation of a Minor, a second-degree felony. Organista was a member of the Salt Lake City School Board and has resigned

Read more on the charges in the Probable Cause Affidavit

Acting on a Cyber Tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, officers uncovered numerous pictures and videos of child pornography on a Dropbox account belonging to Organista. Serving a search warrant, officers also discovered several dozens more such images, including evidence that Organista was communicating directly with children identifying themselves as between the ages of 12-17. Evidence is still being collected from other electronic devices belonging to Organista.

Because Organista is in a position of trust in the education field, he was initially being held without bail in the Salt Lake County Jail.

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Links to news coverage, June 3, 2021

Fox 13  https://www.fox13now.com/news/crime/salt-lake-city-school-board-member-arrested-on-child-pornography-charges

KSL/Deseret News: https://www.ksl.com/article/50179158/salt-lake-city-school-board-member-arrested-in-child-porn-investigation

KUTV: https://kutv.com/news/local/school-board-member-arrested-months-after-tip-asked-to-resign

KTVX:  https://www.abc4.com/news/local-news/slc-school-board-leaders-respond-to-board-member-being-charged/

Telemundo:

Gephardt Daily: https://gephardtdaily.com/local/slc-school-district-board-member-facing-8-felony-sexual-exploitation-of-a-minor-charges/


Law Enforcement & Memorial Day

May is a unique month for us at the Attorney General’s Office. Not only is May the official month to recognize Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage (which is significant especially considering our current attorney general’s family heritage), but May is also the month to commemorate National Police Week (May 9 – May 15), Peace Officers Memorial Day (May 15), and Memorial Day (May 31).

On May 6 of this year, many of us (including AG Reyes) at the Capitol Office were invited to attend the annual Law Enforcement Memorial Service at the Law Enforcement Memorial on the western side of the Capitol grounds. It was a solemn event that was attended by many police chiefs and officers from the surrounding area. Also in attendance were the families and friends of this year’s two honorees: Officer Nate Lyday of the Ogden Police Department, and Officer Franklin Schaerrer of the Utah Highway Patrol.

We watched as the speakers described the two fallen officers and the circumstances surrounding their deaths. They had died as heroes, having given the ultimate sacrifice while protecting all that Utah stands for. Officer Lyday had died while in the line of duty in May 2020, and Officer Schaerrer died from wounds sustained in the line of duty in July 1945. We stood still and quiet as their families and friends were brought forward to place their memorial plaque on the wall of honor.

Along the top of the wall, it reads: “In Valor there is Hope”. Certainly these two men and their sacrifice is proof of that. Because of men like Officers Lyday and Schaerrer, Utah has hope for a brighter and safer tomorrow.

This year, we remember all those who made the ultimate sacrifice while in defense of our state and our nation. We are indebted to all those who died protecting our country, its values, and its citizens. We celebrate their memories and their lives, and reflect and remember the lives lost to preserve our freedoms and our way of life.

We share our thanks and love for all Utah law enforcement officers, past and present. We share an equal measure of gratitude to all Utah servicemen and servicewomen who protect our great nation. We are indebted to each of you.

This Police Week, Peace Officers Memorial Day, and Memorial Day, we say: Thank you for your service. Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for being the best of us.


Operation Urban Mining | The Effort to Stop the Theft of Catalytic Converters

One of Utah’s newest task forces – the Crimes Against the Statewide Economy (C.A.S.E.) task force – was organized during the 2020 Legislative Session (H.B. 461) to address Utah’s growing fight against property theft. Reports continued to emerge reporting the state of Utah, Salt Lake City in particular, as one of the highest ranked locations for property crime, specifically porch pirates (theft of delivered packages), retail theft, and catalytic converter theft.

Catalytic converters are stolen for the precious metals contained within – palladium, rhodium, platinum, titanium, and other materials – and can be sold for as much as $400 per converter. Thieves crawl underneath vehicles in parking lots, parking garages, and residential driveways and use metal saws to remove the device. Sadly, however, these converters are a crucial part of a vehicle’s emission system, costing an average of $1,800 to replace and rendering a vehicle useless without it.

In 2020 and 2021, the newly formed C.A.S.E. Task Force began ‘Operation Urban Mining,’ a massive joint effort to fight the rise in catalytic converter theft. While the theft of catalytic converters from vehicles has been a growing problem nationwide, the theft of catalytic converters in Utah alone has risen nearly 600% in the past two years.

‘Operation Urban Mining’ combined the efforts of the Utah Attorney General’s Investigative Division, the Utah Department of Public Safety State Bureau / Investigations, the Sandy City Police Department, Unified Police Department, West Jordan Police Department, and West Valley City Police Department.

As the operation went on, investigators uncovered many legitimate scrap metal and recyclable dealers were not following Utah laws or best practices. The also discovered that many illegal catalytic converter transactions were taking place in the parking lots of large stores and strip malls.

All research and investigative efforts culminated in a multi-jurisdiction sting operation that included undercover law enforcement officers, scrap metal dealers and recyclers, and thieves attempting to sell stolen converters online. The sting operation resulted in 3 arrests, 6 criminal warnings, 13 criminal violations, 13 scrap metal dealer audits, and 124 catalytic converters seized as evidence. See the images attached to this post of the confiscated converters.

While Utah’s efforts to continue combatting additional property theft are ongoing, ‘Operation Urban Mining’ has been seen as a success. Thanks to the efforts of the AG Investigative Team, the AG’s C.A.S.E. Task Force, and other law enforcement entities, Utah is becoming a safer place for residents and businesses every single day.

See the links below for local media coverage of ‘Operation Urban Mining’:

KSL

Fox 13

KUTV 2

ABC 4


Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes Recounts Asian American Pacific Islander Contributions and Sacrifice on behalf of the United States of America

SALT LAKE CITY — During Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Utah Attorney General Reyes recounts his own family connection and the many contributions and sacrifices the AAPI community has bestowed on the United States of America in the following statement:

“The Asian Pacific American (APA) Community has contributed in so many significant ways to the strength and exceptionalism of America. For example, the APA work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit have yielded tremendous business success. Whether in small shops, large boardrooms, restaurants or startup ventures, Asian Pacific Americans have generated great economic wealth and opportunity for all Americans.

In fields as diverse as academia, medicine, law, engineering and in so many other professional endeavors, APAs have overachieved. Their impact is abundantly evident in music and the arts, cuisine, culture, sports and so much else of what makes us uniquely American.”

“As an APA myself, and a second generation American, I honor my ancestors, my elders and the pioneers of the APA community for their sacrifice in coming to this country, serving and building-up these United States and creating more opportunities for me and the next generations to live the American dream.

However, too many stories of sacrifice and service by the APA community still remain unheard. Too few people know stories surrounding the Chinese Exclusion Act or forgotten Filipino War Veterans. Few understand the depths of humiliation and economic damage suffered by wrongfully incarcerated Japanese Americans during WWII.”

“Having done nothing wrong and loyal to our flag, many Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps and had their businesses and property confiscated by the federal government simply because of their ancestry; this while their sons fought in the US Military for the country they loved.”

“As we celebrate all that APAs have given and continue to contribute to America, I hope we take time to better educate each other about the reality of these injustices, as well as those that are occurring more often in 2021.”

You can find more information on the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month here: https://asianpacificheritage.gov/.


AG Reyes Signs Letter Challenging Critical Race Theory (CRT)

SALT LAKE CITY (5/19/21) — Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined 20 other states in a letter to the Department of Education, urging the Biden administration to reconsider educational proposals aimed at imposing the teaching of critical race theory (CRT), the 1619 Project, and other similar curricula into America’s classrooms. The multistate coalition opposing federal efforts to bring such teachings into U.S. classrooms is led by Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, and addresses goals that are woven into a proposed new rule by the U.S. Department of Education establishing priorities for grants in American History and Civics Education programs.

Statement from Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes:
We can’t right the wrongs of racism in our nation’s history by entirely re-writing our history from a racist perspective. 

Our society, our schools, and the teaching of our history should allow diverse views on the American experience. They should absolutely recognize the elements of racism that have persisted in our past and continue in the present. 

Despite so many great things we have accomplished throughout American history, we have also made harrowing mistakes from slavery and segregation to exclusion, internment, and anti-miscegenation. 

I agree we need transparency and must own those mistakes collectively as a country. We should be as unafraid to confront these failures as we are proud of our successes. We must learn from the past and be diligent to not repeat or perpetuate these failings in the future.

But this education and reckoning should be based on facts—good, bad, and ugly—not the promotion of one ideology of discontent over the common experience and success of so many others. 

The 1619 project and particularly the Kendi version of Critical Race Theory are not the answer to providing more diversity, inclusion or accountability, particularly for elementary-age students. They are divisive and foment only more resentment along already fractured lines. For example, Kendi would go beyond education to indoctrination and promotion of his ideology as the sole truth. He asks not just for recognition and remorse for injustices but ascribes racist motives to all of America and our institutions for any negative experiences endured by people of color. He promotes equity instead of equality. Outcomes over opportunity. Blame versus accountability.

My fight is not with an honest telling of history from those who have been or felt oppressed. It is with those who would tell my children they are racist because they are capitalist and continue to believe in the reality of the American Dream.

Read a copy of the letter here.

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Utah A.G. Reyes Calls on Biden to Support Energy Infrastructure

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joins 18 other state attorneys general today called on President Joe Biden to support additional energy infrastructure – including the Keystone XL pipeline – following the Colonial pipeline shutdown that caused price spikes, fuel shortages, and Carter-style lines at gas stations across the south and eastern parts of the country. In a letter to Biden, they detailed the harm caused by his purported cancelation of the Keystone XL pipeline and urged Biden to put Americans’ national security and the environment first. Read the letter here.

The Colonial pipeline situation showed the widespread panic and disruption that can result when just one pipeline system goes off-line. In the aftermath of the cyberattack, the Biden administration quickly relaxed environmental and safety rules to “secur[e] critical energy supply chains … alleviate shortages … [and] avoid[] potential energy supply disruptions to impacted communities.”

“Most Americans—particularly those not located along the coasts—now wish you had been so diligent and responsive before you determined that Keystone XL could be sacrificed on the altar of left-wing virtue signaling,” the letter stated.

In addition to supplying our own energy needs, energy infrastructure is needed to maintain our nation’s leadership as a net-energy exporter – a position that enhances our national security, increases global stability, and creates good-paying jobs for American workers.

“Americans depend upon safe and secure energy supplies, which is why we must build and maintain robust energy infrastructure that is resilient in the face of accidents and sabotage.  A temporary shutdown of one pipeline’s full-capacity operations shouldn’t bring half the country to the brink.  We need more safe and clean energy sources,” A.G. Reyes and the other attorneys general wrote to Biden. “But your Administration’s current approach exchanges those fact-based conclusions for the faddish preoccupations of your coastal elite constituencies.”

Biden purported to unilaterally cancel the Keystone XL pipeline on his first day in office, even though Obama’s State Department concluded multiple times that Keystone XL was a net positive for the economy, the environment, and energy security.  And just days ago, Biden’s own Energy Secretary acknowledged that pipelines are “the best way to go” when it comes to moving fossil fuels.

“To be clear, we believe your Keystone XL decision was unconstitutional and unlawful, and many of the undersigned states are currently pressing those claims in federal court. But beyond the basic lawlessness of your decision, the current predicament shows what a poor policy decision it was,” the letter stated. “Your impulse to bow to an extreme climate agenda untethered to scientific fact or reality—exhibited by the Keystone XL cancellation and other similar actions—affirmatively deprives Americans of the safe and clean energy supply they need now.  It undercuts our energy independence by eliminating a large and secure source of oil in a time of growing global unrest.  It damages our reputation with geopolitical allies, like Canada, by reneging on our commitments.  It destroys sophisticated, high-paying jobs.  And it stunts sustainable economic growth in pipeline communities and throughout the country.” 

In addition to AG Reyes, the attorneys general of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming also signed onto the letter.

AG Reyes is also a part of 21-state coalition currently suing the Biden Administration over its unconstitutional revocation of the Keystone cross-border permit.

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