Day: May 4, 2020

AG Grewal, Coalition of States File Lawsuit to Block EPA Rule That Would Narrow Protections for Vital Wetlands, Waters

May 4, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Attorney General Gurbir S.  Grewal and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner (DEP) Catherine R. McCabe announced today that New Jersey has filed suit to stop EPA from enacting a rule that eliminates long-standing federal protections for many wetlands, fresh water resources and coastal waters in New Jersey, in neighboring states and across the country.

Scheduled to take effect on June 22, the Administration’s final “Navigable Waters Protection Rule” was issued jointly in January of this year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers. The rule significantly narrows the scope of waters subject to federal regulation under the Clean Water Act (CWA), and is an effort by EPA to roll back water quality protections clarified and fortified under the Obama Administration’s Clean Water Rule of 2015.

Filed in U.S. District Court in California, the multi-state lawsuit seeks to have the new EPA rule rescinded because it conflicts with the plain language of the Clean Water Act, U.S. Supreme Court precedent, and the EPA’s own scientific findings.

“It has never been more important to protect our environment, which has a direct link to the health of our residents,” said Attorney General Grewal. “But EPA is doing just the opposite, rolling back critical rules that protect our waters. This rule is yet another example of EPA disregarding the law and placing industry over our natural resources, and we are committed to fighting it in court.”

“New Jersey’s wetlands, fresh water resources and coastal waters are invaluable parts of New Jersey’s ecosystem and way of life,” said Commissioner McCabe. “We strongly oppose any threat to New Jersey’s water, including EPA’s final Navigable Waters Protection Rule. I am proud to join with Attorney General Grewal and California, New York and other states in opposition to the new rule.”

In February of this year, the EPA’s own Science Advisory Board (SAB) sent a memo to EPA Administrator Andrew R. Wheeler advising that the new Navigable Waters Protection Rule “does not incorporate the best available science” and does not appear to be consistent with the goals of the Clean Water Act.  As the SAB explained this rule “lacks a scientific justification, while potentially introducing new risks to human and environmental health.” EPA moved ahead with finalizing the rule anyway.

As a result, this lawsuit – filed on behalf of New Jersey and 18 other states – challenges EPA’s decision to exclude certain streams and wetlands from the “Waters of the United States” covered by the Clean Water Act. The lawsuit explains that the new rule will harm more environmentally friendly states by increasing the risk of pollution coming in from less protective jurisdictions, will disrupt state-level regulatory programs and will incentivize certain operators to relocate to states with less stringent water quality rules.

The lawsuit explains that the rule is unlawful under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) because it lacks a reasoned explanation or rational basis for departing from long-standing policy and practice, and explains that it also fails to comply with controlling U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

As part of the multi-state legal challenge, New Jersey intends to provide the court with a declaration from DEP asserting that the rule will irrevocably harm vital waters and wetlands in the state – wetlands and waters relied upon for drinking water, wildlife habitats, agriculture and recreation, among other things.  

Indeed, the rollback of CWA protections will have a direct impact in the state. While New Jersey has strong laws and regulations to protect its wetlands and waters, they do not exist in a vacuum, and EPA’s rollback means that greater pollution will flow downstream into state waters from adjacent states.

The rollback poses a threat to important wildlife in New Jersey such as certain waterfowl, fish and shellfish. In addition, the harm done to wetlands could put more lives and property at risk in the future, because wetlands are an integral component of flood abatement and coastal storm damage mitigation.

Trenton Mayor W. Reed Gusciora Responds To Councilwoman Vaughn’s anti-LGBTQ Attacks

May 4, 2020

After some discussion has decided to post the “tape” of the meeting so readers can hear what was said exactly. Warning finds this highly offensive and discretion is advised.



TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)– See yesterday’s story “After anti-LGBTQ Attacks Against Trenton Mayor, Garden State Equality Calls For Councilwoman Robin Vaughn To Step Down”

Please see below for Mayor W. Reed Gusciora’s statement regarding the May 2nd council briefing call.  

“I do regret interacting with Robin Vaughn on Saturday’s COVID briefing call with Trenton City Council. She has had a history of causing disruptions at Council meetings and attacking other decent people, based on their religion or ethnicity, who want to move our City forward. She has also remained steadfast in her opposition to economic development or any other sign of progress for our City.” 

“Vaughn has been relentless in her attacks of members of my Administration and regular City workers trying to do their jobs. She is in violation of a Court Order for her to refrain from such conduct. The prior pass given the Councilwoman for her anti-Semitic comments begs the question, “when is enough?”” 

“However, my frustration became especially palpable on the briefing call when Councilwoman Vaughn made the assertion that federal grant dollars were going to “do-nothing” organizations. Among them were Homefront, Catholic Charities, the Rescue Mission and the Trenton Health Team. I took this personally because I know first-hand the hard work these organizations have been undertaking in the response to COVID-19. They provide healthcare, rental support, food access, emergency shelters, and a whole litany of other critical needs.” 

“Government leaders at all levels will disagree on the best course of action, and sometimes emotions can get the best of us. But Councilwoman Vaughn chose to launch into a vitriolic attack full of homophobic slurs, false accusations, and hateful comments. This was beyond the pale. The toxic and harassing language used by the Councilperson has no place even in the most heated of arguments.” 

“The City is facing difficult decisions regarding the path forward in the face of a global pandemic. I am putting my focus and energy towards figuring out solutions to our challenges. As I have always done, I will continue to work with those members of the City Council that want to advance initiatives that benefit the citizens of Trenton. We simply do not have time for those that refuse to consider the collective good.” 

“My actions have always spoken louder than my words, and my actions have been and will be to work tirelessly on behalf this City. It is time for an end to the divisive and disruptive behavior of Councilwoman Vaughn” 

New Jerseyans Complying with Social Distancing Rules Despite Big Crowds at Parks and Beaches

May 4, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and New Jersey State Police Superintendent Colonel Patrick J. Callahan today thanked and praised New Jersey residents for their overwhelming compliance with social distancing rules at newly opened parks and beaches this weekend.

Law enforcement in all 21 counties of New Jersey reported that, while there were challenges occasioned by the large crowds visiting many parks and beaches, there were no significant enforcement issues, and the re-opening of recreational areas came off largely without incident.

Police dealt with huge crowds at state, county, and local parks, which required the closure of some parks to additional visitors after they quickly reached capacity.  In addition, some people had to be reminded that picnicking is not allowed under the emergency orders, and that, consistent with CDC guidelines to avoid the spread of COVID-19, team sports and the use of playgrounds are also prohibited.

Nonetheless, law enforcement reported that the vast majority of people were compliant with social distancing rules, once they were told what they could and could not do.

“After a month of staying at home, it was no surprise that families needed some fun in the sun and quickly filled parks to capacity, creating challenges for law enforcement,” said Attorney General Grewal.  “What is heartening is the overwhelming degree of compliance reported by police, who found people social distancing and needing only gentle reminders to fold up their picnic blanket or keep their children off of beckoning swings and slides.  People kept safety in mind this weekend, and I encourage everyone to keep up the great work so that we continue on this road to recovery.”

“New Jersey residents continue to serve as a national model for best social distancing practices, and that could not have been more apparent than this past weekend when the vast majority of our residents enjoyed our state parks and beaches responsibly,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police.  “The very reason we have been able to begin reopening is because our citizens have chosen to put the greater good of the public first, but the only way we will be able to keep moving forward is if we continue to stay the course.”

Robbinsville’s Late Lt. Col. John Kapferer Honored

May 4, 2020

ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)–Today, Robbinsville Township Council and Mayor Dave Fried honored the late Lt. Col. John Kapferer with a drive-by parade, salute, street renaming of Newtown Boulevard (1st time ever) and a framed original of the Township Council Resolution was read by Mayor Fried to the family, including his wife, Janice. The Resolution was unanimously approved by Council on April 23.

Mr. Kapferer, a proud member of American Legion Post 530, passed away last month and is the most decorated veteran in our town’s history. Scouts from Troop/Pack 79 spread 300 mini American flags along the parade route. Also in attendance were Council members Vince Calcagno, president Ron Witt and Dan Schuberth.

See previous story here

Monmouth County Man Charged With Possession Of Machine Gun

May 4, 2020

TRENTON, N.J. – A Monmouth County, New Jersey, man will have his initial appearance today for possessing a machine gun as a previously convicted felon, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Davon Harley, 30, of Neptune City, New Jersey, appeared by video conference this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Zahid M. Quraishi and was detained without bail. Harley was arrested by local authorities on Feb. 8, 2020, and charged with state offenses. He is now charged by federal criminal complaint with one count of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and one count of possession of a machinegun.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

In February 2020 a Neptune City Police officer confronted Harley, a previously convicted felon, who was arguing with others in the yard of an apartment complex. Harley fled through the apartment complex into neighboring properties and discarded a handgun that, upon inspection, had been altered to fire exclusively in fully automatic mode. The weapon had a magazine capable of holding 31 rounds of ammunition. Members of law enforcement, assisted by the Neptune Township and Asbury Park police departments located Harley and recovered the machine gun and the magazine that Harley had discarded.

The felon in possession of a firearm and possession of a machine gun charges each carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Newark Division, Trenton Field Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Charlie J. Patterson; officers of the Neptune City Police Department, under the direction of Police Director Matthew Quagliato; officers of the Neptune Township Police Department, under the direction of Chief of Police James M. Hunt Jr.; officers of the Asbury Park Police Department, under the direction of Chief of Police David Kelso; officers of the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office, under the direction of Sheriff Shaun Golden; and detectives of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni, with the investigation leading to the charges. This case was brought as part of Project Stop the Violence, a comprehensive strategy to combat gun crimes in Monmouth County.

The government is represented by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Matthews of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Criminal Division in Trenton.

The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


Defense counsel: Lisa Van Hoeck Esq., Assistant Federal Public Defender (Trenton)

School Buildings To Remain Closed For Rest Of School Year For In-Person Instruction

May 4, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Governor Phil Murphy has said school buildings will remain closed for the rest of the school year for in-person instruction and remote online learning will continue. Read Governor Murphy’s statement below:

ALL SCHOOLS WILL REMAIN CLOSED for in-person instruction for the remainder of the school year – to protect the health of our children, our educators, and their families. Guided by safety and science, this is the best course of action.

We’re working with the principle that public health creates economic health – or in this case, educational health.

If the standards are high to reopen our workplaces are high, they are even higher when it comes to schools filled with our children.

As the father of a high-schooler who has been attending classes remotely for nearly two months, I understand the concerns of both parents and school leaders.But, for us to ensure that we can undertake a responsible restart and recovery, this step was necessary.

The New Jersey Department of Education will be leading stakeholder meetings to determine whether summer educational or other programs offered at our schools may proceed. They will also conduct this same rigorous work regarding the opening of our buildings for the 2020-2021 school year in September.

NJSIAA & Governor Murphy: 2020 High School Spring Sports Season Canceled

May 4, 2020

ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)—Statement from the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association- NJSIAA about the spring sports season:

“Following today’s announcement by Governor Murphy, the NJSIAA has officially canceled New Jersey’s 2020 high school spring sports season. This decision was not made lightly and we are disappointed for the thousands of New Jersey student-athletes who will be unable to compete this spring. While we remained hopeful to the end, and left open every possibility, competition simply is not feasible given the circumstances.

“The last few weeks have been heartbreaking on many levels, from the tragic loss of life, to thousands battling the virus, to millions who have suffered emotional and economic loss. It’s been a harrowing time for everyone, and we know our student-athletes are extremely disappointed. That said, these unfortunate circumstances may have put an intriguing challenge in the path of our young people. As New Jersey’s own Vince Lombardi once said, “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.” We’re confident all our kids will get back up and stand tall.

“The NJSIAA will continue developing plans for the potential restarting of scholastic sports during the fall season. Additional information related both to the summer recess and fall will be shared at a later date.”

Governor Murphy: “We’re leaning on the guidance from the NJSIAA against the resumption of spring sports for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. The NJSIAA Medical Board concluded that due to a lack of testing, viable treatments, and a vaccine, that spring sports were not a viable option.”