CDR Founder Pleads Guilty to Bid-Rigging, Fraud

   WASHINGTON - 12/30/2011 - A Beverly Hills, Calif.,-based financial products and services firm, and its founder and owner pleaded guilty today in the Southern District of New York for their participation in bid-rigging and fraud conspiracies related to contracts for the investment of municipal bond proceeds and other related municipal finance contracts, the Department of Justice announced.
    Rubin/Chambers, Dunhill Insurance Services, also known as CDR Financial Products, and David Rubin, CDR founder and owner, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in the Southern District of New York. Rubin and CDR, along with Zevi Wolmark, also known as Stewart Wolmark, the former chief financial officer and managing director of CDR, and Evan Andrew Zarefsky, a vice president of CDR, were indicted on Oct. 29, 2009. The trial for Wolmark and Zarefsky is scheduled to begin on Jan. 3, 2012, in the Southern District of New York.
   Rubin and CDR each pleaded guilty to participating in separate bid-rigging and fraud conspiracies with various financial institutions and insurance companies and their representatives. These institutions and companies, or “providers,” offered a type of contract, known as an investment agreement, to state, county and local governments and agencies throughout the United States. The public entities were seeking to invest money from a variety of sources, primarily the proceeds of municipal bonds that they had issued to raise money for, among other things, public projects. Rubin and CDR also pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in connection with those schemes.
    “Mr. Rubin and his company engaged in fraudulent and anticompetitive conduct that harmed municipalities and other public entities,” said Sharis A. Pozen, acting assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “Today’s guilty pleas are an important development in our continued efforts to hold accountable those who violate the antitrust laws and subvert the competitive process in our financial markets.”
    According to court documents, CDR was hired by public entities that issue municipal bonds to act as their broker and conduct what was supposed to be a competitive bidding process for contracts for the investment of municipal bond proceeds. Competitive bidding for those contracts is the subject of regulations issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and is related to the tax-exempt status of the bonds.
    During his plea hearing, Rubin admitted that, from 1998 until 2006, he and other co-conspirators supplied information to providers to help them win bids, solicited intentionally losing bids, and signed certifications that contained false statements regarding whether the bidding process for certain investment agreements complied with relevant Treasury Regulations. Additionally, Rubin admitted that he and other co-conspirators solicited fees from providers, which were in fact payments to CDR for rigging or manipulating bids for certain investment agreements so that a particular provider would win that agreement at an artificially determined price.
    “Mr. Rubin and his firm were trusted with public money and confidence to assist municipalities with issuing bonds,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge Janice K. Fedarcyk. “Contrary to his agreement and the law, Mr. Rubin shirked his responsibilities while defrauding taxpayers. Thankfully, this bid-rigging scheme, where Mr. Rubin decided the winners and losers, is over.”
   The bid–rigging conspiracy with which Rubin is charged carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million criminal fine. The fraud conspiracy with which Rubin is charged carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 criminal fine. The wire fraud charge with which Rubin is charged carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 criminal fine. The maximum fines for each of these offenses may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.
    CDR faces a maximum criminal fine on the bid-rigging charge of $100 million. The fraud conspiracy and wire fraud offenses with which CDR is charged each carry a maximum criminal fine of $500,000. The maximum fines for each of these offenses may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.
    Rubin is the tenth individual to plead guilty in an ongoing federal investigation into the municipal bonds industry, which is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s New York Field Office, the FBI and IRS-CI.
    In addition, Dominick Carollo and Peter S. Grimm, formerly of GE Funding Capital Market Services, and Steven E. Goldberg, formerly of GE Funding Capital Market Services and FSA, were indicted on July 27, 2010, and are scheduled to begin trial in April 2012. Three former UBS employees, Peter Ghavami, Gary Heinz and Michael Welty, were indicted on Dec. 9, 2010.
   Source: Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force

EPA Moves to Limit Mercury Emissions in U.S.

   WASHINGTON, D.C. – 12/24/2011 - The federal Environmental Protection Agency continued on December 11 its effort to reduce Americans’ exposure to hazardous chemicals, announcing a long-awaited new standard to reduce the amount of mercury emissions allowed from power plants in the United States.
   “Many power plants could have taken simple steps years ago to reduce mercury emissions into the environment, and with this new rule those that haven’t yet will finally be required to act,” Environmental Working Group Senior Research Analyst Sonya Lunder said. “A number of plants in the U.S. have already installed the necessary equipment to decrease the emissions of this potent neurotoxin, but many have dragged their feet while millions of people, including children have been exposed. This common-sense standard will result in incredible cost savings as measured in less illness, fewer sick days and fewer air pollution related deaths.”
   Mercury is one of the most toxic substances commonly found in the environment and people, causing permanent damage to the brain and nervous system. Much of the mercury found in the environment comes as a result of coal-fired power plant emissions, where it finds its way into the food chain and our bodies. One in six American women have mercury exposures high enough to adversely impact the developing brain and nervous system of the fetus during pregnancy.
   “This new emissions rule has been in the works for more than a decade, only to be stalled by political shenanigans,“ Lunder said. “Administrator Jackson and the president deserve credit for this major victory for children’s health.”
  In 1997 the Environmental Working Group’s analysis, “Contamination of America's Food,” concluded that fish from more than 1,660 U.S. waterways were so contaminated with mercury that they should be eaten sparingly if at all. In 2004, EWG found mercury in all 10 umbilical cord blood samples it had tested for hundreds of industrial pollutants. A similar EWG-funded study conducted five years later found that all 10 samples of cord blood of minority babies had mercury present as well.
   Source: Environmental Working Group release of 12/21/2011

Teen Cigarette, Alcohol Use Reaches Historic Low

   (NIH) - 12/20/2011 - Cigarette and alcohol use by eighth, 10th and 12th-graders are at their lowest point since the Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey began polling teenagers in 1975, according to this year’s survey results. However, this positive news is tempered by a slowing rate of decline in teen smoking as well as continued high rates of abuse of other tobacco products (e.g., hookahs, small cigars, smokeless tobacco), marijuana and prescription drugs. The survey results, announced today during a news conference at the National Press Club, appear to show that more teens continue to abuse marijuana than cigarettes; and alcohol is still the drug of choice among all three age groups queried.
   MTF is an annual survey of eighth, 10th, and 12th-graders conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, under a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health. The survey was conducted in classrooms earlier this year.
   "That cigarette use has declined to historically low rates is welcome news, given our concerns that declines may have slowed or stalled in recent years," NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow said. "That said, the teen smoking rate is declining much more slowly than in years past, and we are seeing teens consume other tobacco products at high levels. This highlights the urgency of maintaining strong prevention efforts against teen smoking and of targeting other tobacco products."
   The 2011 results showed that 18.7 percent of 12th-graders reported current (past-month) cigarette use, compared to a recent peak rate of 36.5 percent in 1997 and 21.6 percent five years ago. Only 6.1 percent of eighth-graders reported current smoking, compared to a recent peak of 21 percent in 1996 and 8.7 percent five years ago.
   "While it is good news that cigarette use has declined to historically low rates, we can and must do more to accelerate that decline," Assistant Secretary for Health Howard K. Koh, said. "The actual decline is relatively small compared to the sharp declines we witnessed in the late nineties."
   For alcohol, 63.5 percent of 12th-graders reported past year use, compared to a recent peak of 74.8 percent in 1997. Similarly, 26.9 percent of eighth-graders reported past year use of alcohol in 2011, compared to a recent peak rate of 46.8 percent in 1994. There also was a five-year decrease in binge drinking, measured as five or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks, across all three grades. Binge drinking was reported by 6.4 percent of eighth-graders, 14.7 percent of 10th-graders, and 21.6 percent of 12th-graders, down from the 2006 rates of 8.7 percent, 19.9 percent and 25.4 percent respectively.
   Despite the declines noted in the report, use of marijuana has shown some increases in recent years and remains steady. Among 12th-graders, 36.4 percent reported past year use, and 6.6 percent reported daily use, up from 31.5 and 5 percent, respectively, five years ago. The upward trend in teens' abuse of marijuana corresponded to downward trends in their perception of risk. For example, only 22.7 percent of high school seniors saw great risk in smoking marijuana occasionally, compared to 25.9 percent five years ago. Similarly, 43.4 percent of eighth-graders reported that they saw great risk in smoking marijuana occasionally, compared to 48.9 percent five years ago. In addition, concerns about the use of synthetic marijuana, known as K2 or spice, prompted its inclusion in the survey for the first time in 2011. Surprisingly, 11.4 percent of 12th-graders reported past year use.
   "K2 and spice are dangerous drugs that can cause serious harm," said Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy. "We will continue to work with the public health and safety community to respond to this emerging threat but in the meantime, parents must take action. Parents are the most powerful force in the lives of young people and we ask that all of them talk to their teens today about the serious consequences of using marijuana, K2, or spice."
   There was mixed news seen in the non-medical use of prescription drugs. Abuse of the opioid painkiller Vicodin was reported by 8.1 percent of 12th graders — similar to 2010 and down from 9.7 percent in 2009. There was also a decline reported by 10th graders — to 5.9 percent from 7.7 percent in 2010. However, no such declines were seen for the opioid painkiller OxyContin.
   In 2011, the non-medical use of the ADHD medicines Adderall and Ritalin remained about the same as last year among 12th-graders, at 6.5 and 2.6 percent, respectively. There was, however, a significant decline in the abuse of over-the-counter cough medicine among eighth-graders, down to 2.7 percent in 2011 from 4.2 percent in 2006, when the survey first asked about its abuse. A similar decline in cough medicine abuse was seen among 12th-graders, to 5.3 percent from 6.9 percent five years ago.
   "To help educate teens about the dangers of prescription drug abuse, NIDA is launching an updated prescription drug section on our teen website," Volkow said. "Teens can go to our PEERx pages to find interactive videos and other tools that help them make healthy decisions and understand the risks of abusing prescription drugs. We are also encouraging teens to provide feedback on these resources through NIDA's teen blog, Sara Bellum, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or email." PEERx can be seen at http://teens.drugabuse.gov/peerx.
   Overall, 46,773 students from 400 public and private schools participated in this year's MTF survey. Since 1975, the survey has measured drug, alcohol, and cigarette use and related attitudes in 12th-graders nationwide. Eighth and 10th graders were added to the survey in 1991. Survey participants generally report their drug use behaviors across three time periods: lifetime, past year, and past month. Questions are also asked about daily cigarette and marijuana use. NIDA has providing funding for the survey since its inception by a team of investigators at the University of Michigan, led by Dr. Lloyd Johnston. Additional information on the MTF Survey, as well as comments from Dr. Volkow, can be found at www.drugabuse.gov/drugpages/MTF.html. To hear the audiocast of the event, visit: www.visualwebcaster.com/MonitoringTheFuture.
   MTF is one of three major surveys sponsored by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services that provide data on substance use among youth. The others are the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The MTF website is: http://monitoringthefuture.org. Follow Monitoring the Future 2011 news on Twitter at @NIDANews, or join the conversation by using: #MTF2011. Additional information on MTF can be found at www.hhs.gov/news; or www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov.
   The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is the primary source of statistical information on substance use in the U.S. population 12 years of age and older. More information is available at: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/NSDUH/2k10NSDUH/2k10Results.htm.
   The Youth Risk Behavior Survey, part of HHS' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, is a school-based survey that collects data from students in grades 9-12. The survey includes questions on a wide variety of health-related risk behaviors, including substance abuse.
   More information is available at www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dash/yrbs/index.htm.
   Source: National Institutes of Health release of 12/14/2011

New Robotic System to Screen 10,000 Chemicals

   (NIH) - 12/13/2011 - A high-speed robotic screening system, aimed at protecting human health by improving how chemicals are tested in the United States, begins today to test 10,000 compounds for potential toxicity. The compounds cover a wide variety of classifications, and include consumer products, food additives, chemicals found in industrial processes, and human and veterinary drugs. A complete list of the compounds is publicly available at www.epa.gov/ncct/dsstox
   Testing this 10,000 compound library begins a new phase of an ongoing collaboration between the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, referred to as Tox21. NIH partners include the National Toxicology Program (NTP), administered by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), and the NIH Chemical Genomics Center (NCGC), part of the NIH Center for Translational Therapeutics (NCTT), housed at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI).
   “There has never been a compound library like this before,” NIEHS/NTP Director Linda Birnbaum said.
   Birnbaum is especially excited that some of the compounds the NTP has brought forward for testing are mixtures of chemicals. “All of us are exposed to many different chemicals at the same time, not just one chemical at a time,” she said. “These new technologies allow us to more rapidly advance our understanding of not only individual chemicals, but mixtures of chemicals as well.”
   A subset of the NTP portion of the 10,000 compound library will focus on pilot testing several formulations or mixtures of compounds, a priority area for NIEHS/NTP. The library constituents were selected after a thorough analysis of existing scientific studies, more than 200 public chemical databases, and chemical nominations received from internal and external partners. Each test compound will undergo a thorough chemical analysis to verify its identity and determine its purity, concentration, and stability.
   The goal of the testing is to provide results that will be useful for evaluating if these chemicals have the potential to disrupt processes in the human body to an extent that leads to adverse health effects.
   The compounds will be tested in the Tox21 robotic screening system at the NCGC in Rockville, Md. The Tox21 robot, unveiled earlier this year, was purchased with funds provided by the NTP as part of its contribution to the Tox21 partnership.
   “The robot has undergone rigorous testing since it was installed and unveiled earlier this year. It’s ready to start testing this large compound library,” NHGRI Director Eric Green said. “This is a milestone for Tox21, because it will allow us to test chemicals at a rate previously impossible for anyone to do by hand.”
   The development of methods for evaluating chemical toxicity has the potential to revolutionize the assessment of new environmental chemicals and the development of new drugs for therapeutic use.
   “We are happy to contribute NCGC’s pharmaceutical collection of approximately 3,500 compounds of approved and investigational drugs as part of the Tox21 program,” NCTT Scientific Director Christopher Austin said. “Drug toxicity is one of the primary reasons that the development of new drugs fails and approved drugs are removed from the market, and the ability to better predict toxicity would improve the efficiency of drug development enormously.”
   The EPA seeks to understand the molecular basis of such chemicals to better protect human health and that of the environment.
   “The Tox21 partnership integrates revolutionary advances in molecular biology, chemistry, and computer science, to quickly and cost-effectively screen the thousands of chemicals in use today,” said Paul Anastas, assistant administrator of the EPA Office of Research and Development. “The innovative robotics screening technology will generate chemical toxicity data that EPA has never had before.”
   The FDA, also a partner in Tox21, emphasizes the value of this effort for the public. “The Tox21 rapid assessment of drug toxicity can become a powerful safety tool for protecting the American public. It also has the potential to help bring innovative drugs to market by allowing drug developers to identify unsafe candidate drugs early,” said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.
  All testing results will be available to the public through NIH and EPA chemical toxicity databases. In addition, NCTT has created a Tox21 chemical inventory browser freely available at http://tripod.nih.gov/tox21chem to provide researchers with additional about the chemicals. For more information about Tox21, visithttp://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/assets/docs_p_z/ntp-tox21.pdf
   The NIEHS supports research to understand the effects of the environment on human health and is part of NIH. For more information on environmental health topics, visit www.niehs.nih.gov. Subscribe to one or more of the NIEHS news lists to stay current on NIEHS news, press releases, grant opportunities, training, events, and publications.
   The NTP is an interagency program established in 1978. The program was created as a cooperative effort to coordinate toxicology testing programs within the federal government, strengthen the science base in toxicology, develop and validate improved testing methods, and provide information about potentially toxic chemicals to health, regulatory, and research agencies, scientific and medical communities, and the public.  
   The NTP is headquartered at the NIEHS. For more information about the NTP, visit http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov.
   Source: National Institutes of Health release of December 7, 2011.

Autism Research Data Source Called Largest

   (NIH) - 12/13/2011 - A data partnership between the National Database for Autism Research (NDAR), and the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE) positions NDAR as possibly the largest repository to date of genetic, phenotypic, clinical, and medical imaging data related to research on autism spectrum disorders (ASD), according to a recent news release from the National Institutes of Health.
   "The collaboration between AGRE and NDAR exemplifies the efforts of government and stakeholders to work together for a common cause," said Thomas R. Insel, M.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health, part of NIH. "NDAR continues to be a leader in the effort to standardize and share ASD data with the research community, and serves as a model to all research communities." 
   NDAR is supported by the National Institutes of Health; AGRE is an Autism Speaks program.  NDAR's mission is to facilitate data sharing and scientific collaboration on a broad scale, providing a shared common platform for autism researchers to accelerate scientific discovery. Built around the concept of federated repositories, NDAR integrates and standardizes data, tools, and computational techniques across multiple public and private autism databases. 
   Through NDAR, researchers can access results from these different sources at the same time, using the rich data set to conduct independent analyses, supplement their own research data, or evaluate the data supporting published journal articles, among many other uses. Databases previously federated with NDAR include Autism Speaks' Autism Tissue Program, the Kennedy Krieger Institute's Interactive Autism Network (IAN), and the NIH Pediatric MRI Data Repository. 
   AGRE currently houses a clinical dataset with detailed medical, developmental, morphological, demographic, and behavioral information from people with ASD and their families. Approved NDAR users will have access to data from the 25,000 research participants represented in NDAR, as well as 2,500 AGRE families and more than 7,500 participants who reported their own information to IAN. NDAR is supported by NIMH, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and the NIH Center for Information Technology. 
   According to the NIMH, it's mission is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery and cure.

Wachovia Bank Admits to Anticompetitive Conduct

   WASHINGTON - 12/10/2011 - Wachovia Bank N.A., which is now known as Wells Fargo Bank N.A., has entered into an agreement with the Department of Justice to resolve the company’s role in anticompetitive activity in the municipal bond investments market and has agreed to pay a total of $148 million in restitution, penalties and disgorgement to federal and state agencies, the Department of Justice announced today.
   As part of its agreement with the department, Wachovia admits, acknowledges and accepts responsibility for illegal, anticompetitive conduct by its former employees. According to the non-prosecution agreement, from 1998 through 2004, certain former Wachovia employees at its municipal derivatives desk entered into unlawful agreements to manipulate the bidding process and rig bids on municipal investment and related contracts. These contracts were used to invest the proceeds of, or manage the risks associated with, bond issuances by municipalities and other public entities.
    “The illegal conduct at Wachovia Bank corrupted the bidding practices for investment contracts and deprived municipalities of the competitive process to which they were entitled,” said Sharis A. Pozen, acting assistant attorney general in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “Today’s resolution achieves restitution for the victims harmed by Wachovia’s anticompetitive conduct and ensures that Wachovia disgorges its ill-gotten gains and pays penalties for its illegal conduct. We are committed to ensuring competition in the financial markets and our investigation into anticompetitive conduct in the municipal bond derivatives industry continues.”
   Under the terms of the agreement, Wachovia agrees to pay restitution to victims of the anticompetitive conduct and to cooperate fully with the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division in its ongoing investigation into anticompetitive conduct in the municipal bond derivatives industry. To date, the ongoing investigation has resulted in criminal charges against 18 former executives of various financial services companies and one corporation. Nine of the 18 executives charged have pleaded guilty.
   The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and 26 state attorneys general also entered into agreements with Wachovia requiring the payment of penalties, disgorgement of profits from the illegal conduct and payment of restitution to the victims harmed by the manipulation and bid rigging by Wachovia employees, as well as other remedial measures.
   As a result of Wachovia’s admission of conduct; its cooperation with the Department of Justice and other enforcement and regulatory agencies; its monetary and non-monetary commitments to the SEC, IRS, OCC and state attorneys general; and its remedial efforts to address the anticompetitive conduct, the department agreed not to prosecute Wachovia for the manipulation and bid rigging of municipal investment and related contracts, provided that Wachovia satisfies its ongoing obligations under the agreement.
   Earlier this year, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and UBS AG also entered into agreements with the Department of Justice and other federal and state agencies to resolve anticompetitive conduct in the municipal bond derivatives market. In July 2011, JPMorgan agreed to pay a total of $228 million in restitution, penalties and disgorgement to federal and state agencies for its role in the conduct. In May 2011, UBS AG agreed to pay a total of $160 million in restitution, penalties and disgorgement to federal and state agencies for its participation in the anticompetitive conduct.
    The department’s ongoing investigation into the municipal bonds industry is being conducted by the Antitrust Division, the FBI and the IRS-Criminal Investigation. The department is coordinating its investigation with the SEC, the OCC and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The department thanks the SEC, IRS, OCC and state attorneys general for their cooperation and assistance in this matter.
   The Antitrust Division, SEC, IRS, FBI, state attorneys general and OCC are members of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. For more information, visit www.stopfraud.gov.

Lafarge North America Inc. to Pay $740,000 Penalty

   WASHINGTON - 12/4/2011 - Lafarge North America Inc., one of the largest suppliers of construction materials in the United States and Canada, and four of its U.S. subsidiaries have agreed to resolve alleged Clean Water Act violations. The violations include unpermitted discharges of stormwater at 21 stone, gravel, sand, asphalt and ready-mix concrete facilities in Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, and New York. Stormwater flowing over concrete manufacturing facilities can carry debris, sediment and pollutants, including pesticides, petroleum products, chemicals and solvents, which can have a significant impact on water quality.
   “The EPA is committed to protecting America’s waters from polluted stormwater runoff,” said Cynthia Giles, EPA assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Today’s (Nov. 29) settlement will improve stormwater management at facilities across the nation, preventing harmful pollutants from being swept into local waterways.”
   “Owners and operators of industrial facilities must take the necessary measures to comply with stormwater regulations under the Clean Water Act, which protects America’s rivers, lakes, and sources of drinking water from harmful contamination,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The system-wide management controls and training that this settlement requires from Lafarge and its subsidiaries will result in better management practices and a robust compliance program at hundreds of facilities throughout the nation that will prevent harmful stormwater runoff.”
   Lafarge will implement a nationwide evaluation and compliance program at 189 of its similar facilities in the United States to ensure they meet Clean Water Act requirements. Lafarge will also pay a penalty of $740,000 and implement two supplemental environmental projects, in which the company will complete conservation easements to protect approximately 166 acres in Maryland and Colorado. The value of the land has been appraised at approximately $2,95 million. Lafarge will also implement one state environmentally beneficial project valued at $10,000 to support environmental training for state inspectors.
   The comprehensive evaluation will include a compliance review of each facility’s permit, an inventory of all discharges to U.S. waters, and identification of all best management practices in place. In addition, Lafarge must identify an environmental vice president, responsible for coordinating oversight of compliance with stormwater requirements, at least two environmental directors, to oversee stormwater compliance at each operation, and an onsite operations manager at each facility. The U.S. estimates that Lafarge will spend approximately $8 million over five years to develop and maintain this compliance program.
   The company will also develop and implement an extensive management, training, inspections, and reporting system to increase oversight of its operations and compliance with stormwater requirements at all facilities that it owns or operates.
   The complaint, filed in federal court with the settlement, alleges a pattern of violations since 2006 that were discovered after several federal inspections at the company’s facilities. The alleged violations included unpermitted discharges, violations of effluent limitations, inadequate management practices, inadequate or missing records and practices regarding stormwater compliance and monitoring, inadequate discharge monitoring and reporting, inadequate stormwater pollution prevention plans, and inadequate stormwater training.
   The Clean Water Act requires that industrial facilities, such as ready-mix concrete plants, sand and gravel facilities and asphalt batching plants, have controls in place to prevent pollution from being discharged with stormwater into nearby waterways. Each site must have a stormwater pollution prevention plan that sets guidelines and best management practices that the company will follow to prevent runoff from being contaminated by pollutants.
   Since being notified of the violations by EPA, the company has made significant improvements to its stormwater management systems.
   The settlement is the latest in a series of federal enforcement actions to address stormwater violations from industrial facilities and construction sites around the country. The states of Maryland and Colorado are co-plaintiffs and have joined the proposed settlement.
   Lafarge is required to pay the penalty within 30 days of the court’s approval of the settlement.
   Source: U.S. EPA release. For additional information about this case, see Settlement.

Survey: Cell Phones Cited as Safety Concern

   SACRAMENTO, Calif. - (BUSINESS WIRE) - 12/1/2011 - In a dramatic turnaround, California drivers ranked cell phone talking and texting as the biggest safety problems on the road in 2011, decisively moving past the top problems of 2010, which were speeding and aggressive driving. These and other opinions of driving habits are included in the results of the second annual Traffic Safety Survey, released today by the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS).
   “This information provides us with unique insight into the concerns of Californians. It is very telling that we’ve seen such a shift in opinions on cell phone use in just one year.”
   In 2010, 21.5 percent of drivers thought that speeding and aggressive driving were the biggest problems, followed by cell phone talking and texting, which totaled 18.3 percent combined. In the latest 2011 results, speeding and aggressive driving dropped to 17.6 percent, while those worried about drivers using cell phones more than doubled to 38.8 percent. Drunk driving was next on the list, replacing last year’s “bad roads,” with 12.6 percent of respondents considering it most dangerous.
   “This second year of surveying the opinions and habits of California’s drivers shows how quickly they react to the real problems we all face on the road,” said OTS Director Christopher J. Murphy. “This information provides us with unique insight into the concerns of Californians. It is very telling that we’ve seen such a shift in opinions on cell phone use in just one year.”
   In the most distracting category, combined cell phone talking and texting jumped from 75 percent to 84 percent. Those who say they still use handheld phones for either talking or texting dropped from last year, while those who say that they have been hit or nearly hit by someone talking or texting on a cell phone increased.
  Drivers are a bit more aware of the anti-drunk driving message, with more actually saying that they aren’t drinking at all. In addition, drivers are more aware of DUI checkpoints, and at a high 88 percent approval rate, the vast majority of California drivers support them as well. More people are also aware of the Click It or Ticket seat belt campaign and buckle up because of it.
   The statewide survey was fielded in late summer and 1,801 drivers age 18 and over were interviewed at gas stations in 15 counties throughout California. The results will help the California Office of Traffic Safety and those involved in the Strategic Highway Safety Plan better identify and track driver attitudes, self-reported driving behavior, awareness of high visibility enforcement efforts and safety communications.
   “Having this second year of results is very helpful,” Murphy said. “It has validated what we took from the first year and is beginning to show trends. It is providing valuable data for our planning, particularly in distracted driving programs and the emerging drugged driving problem.”
   Additional results include:
  • Drunk driving was the biggest safety concern of the 18-24 year old age group, at 30.3 percent, up from 11.5 percent in 2010. This age group also lead in those who report that they have recently had too much alcohol to drive safely. 
  • A larger percentage of drivers (40.4 percent) say they talk less on their phones while driving than last year (34.5 percent) because of the hands-free law. 
  • 45.8 percent say that they have made driving mistakes while talking on cell phones. 60.1 percent say that they have been hit or nearly hit by other drivers who were talking or texting. 
  • A higher percentage of 18-24 year olds than any other age group think that texting while driving is a serious distraction, yet more of them actually do text and drive than any other age group. 
  • There are differences between what Northern and Southern Californians think are the biggest problems. 33.2 percent of Southern Californians think texting ranks high, while 25.7 percent of Northern Californians think so. Similarly, 25.6 percent in the southland think drunk driving is the biggest problem while 15.2 percent in the north rank it at the top. 
  • 25-44 year-olds lead in hands-free cell phone talking, even though it is no more safe than hand-held talking. 
  • 71.9 percent think that the Report Drunk Drivers – Call 911 campaign has helped police make more DUI arrests. 
  • 88.3 percent support the use of DUI checkpoints 

The Arms Debate

Not All American's Have the Right to Bear Arms

Photo by Steve Rensberry (c) 2018