Day: October 18, 2022

State of NJ Files Suit Against Five Oil and Gas Companies And Trade Group Of Misleading the Public About Their Products and Climate Change

The suit filed today in New Jersey Superior Court in Mercer County names as defendants Exxon Mobil Corporation, Shell Oil Company, Chevron Corporation, BP, ConocoPhillips, and the trade group in which these defendants were members — American Petroleum Institute (API). 

October 18, 2022

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs and the Department of Environmental Protection today filed a lawsuit on behalf of New Jersey residents against five oil and gas companies and a petroleum trade association, alleging they knowingly made false claims to deceive the public about the existence of climate change and the degree to which their fossil fuels products have been acerbating anthropogenic global warming.

The suit filed today in New Jersey Superior Court in Mercer County names as defendants Exxon Mobil Corporation, Shell Oil Company, Chevron Corporation, BP, ConocoPhillips, and the trade group in which these defendants were members — American Petroleum Institute (API). The State is seeking to hold the defendants accountable for systematically concealing and denying their knowledge that fossil fuel consumption could have a catastrophic impact on the climate, causing the devastating consequences of fossil fuel overconsumption: the significant sea level rise, flooding, and extreme weather that have battered New Jersey’s citizens and businesses, requiring the State and its residents to shoulder the enormous costs of rebuilding, hardening New Jersey’s defenses against severe weather and making the necessary transition away from reliance on fossil fuels to a more sustainable clean-energy future. API is accused of playing a key role in orchestrating and implementing climate denial campaigns on behalf of and under the supervision of the fossil fuel defendants.

The State alleges that the defendant oil and gas producers and API have known for decades that use of fossil fuels is a major cause of climate change, but instead of warning the public or the State about the danger, they launched public-relations campaigns to sow doubts about the existence, causes, and effects of climate change with the goal of confusing the public, delaying the transition to a lower carbon economy and future, increasing their own profits, and further deepening dependence on their products.

“Based on their own research, these companies understood decades ago that their products were causing climate change and would have devastating environmental impacts down the road,” said Attorney General Platkin. “They went to great lengths to hide the truth and mislead the people of New Jersey, and the world. In short, these companies put their profits ahead of our safety. It’s long overdue that the facts be aired in a New Jersey court, and the perpetrators of the disinformation campaign pay for the harms they’ve caused.”

“New Jersey is ground zero for some of the worst impacts of climate change,” said Shawn M. LaTourette, the State’s Commissioner of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). “Our communities and environment are continually recovering from extreme heat, furious storms, and devastating floods. These conditions will sadly only worsen in the decades ahead, leaving us scrambling to prepare for a parade of harmful climate changes. All this while we rush to ween ourselves off the very products these companies have long known would fuel our pain but deceived New Jerseyans about, because keeping us addicted was better for their bottom line. It was wrong to mislead us; wrong to undermine climate science; wrong to put profit over people and the planet that we share. It is time New Jersey demands accountability.”

“Our Shore communities have had to rebuild boardwalk landmarks, construct large dunes and devise other engineering solutions to recover from and respond to devastating storms. And some of our most vulnerable communities are now subjected to increasingly frequent bouts of significant flooding, with sometimes fatal consequences,” said Cari Fais, Acting Director of the DCA. “Our state is paying dearly for these defendants’ misrepresentations and failure to disclose the enormous detriments of their products. They should now help to shoulder that tremendous financial burden.”

In addition to asking the court for an injunction ordering the energy companies to stop deceiving New Jersey consumers about the destructive environmental impacts of fossil fuels, the State is seeking civil monetary penalties and damages, including natural resource damages such as the loss of substantial wetlands throughout the State, alleging taxpayers will be saddled with billions in expenses to protect communities from rising sea levels, deadlier storms, and other climate-related harms and to mitigate those harms by transitioning to non-fossil fuel energy generation — costs that should be borne by the defendants.

According to the complaint, the oil and gas companies researched the link between fossil-fuel consumption and climate change starting as early as the 1950s, and by the mid-60s gained a comprehensive understanding of the adverse climate impacts of fossil fuels.

Internal fossil fuel industry documents reveal how the oil and gas producers’ scientists predicted that ongoing burning of fossil fuels would cause “dramatic environmental effects,” warning corporate executives that the world had a narrow window of time to curb emissions and stave off “catastrophic” climate change.

The documents also show how the fossil fuel defendants allegedly took the internal warnings seriously, assessing how climate change would impact their infrastructure, investing to protect their own assets from sea-level rise and increasingly extreme weather, and patenting technologies that would expand their profits as the world grew warmer.

But the defendants allegedly failed to warn the public or the State about what was coming. On the contrary, according to the complaint, the defendant oil and gas producers worked to manufacture doubt about the existence and causes of climate change.

The State’s complaint alleges the defendant fossil fuel companies violated the Consumer Fraud Act by misrepresenting, suppressing, and omitting material facts about the adverse impacts of their products through a national climate-denialist campaign starting in the 1980s and continuing through today, in which they used industry associations and front groups such as API to disseminate false and misleading information about climate change.

The complaint alleges the companies fell short of their legal obligation to warn consumers about all the hidden or latent dangers arising from the use of their products. The complaint also alleges negligence, impairment of the public trust, trespass, and public nuisance.

According to the suit, when the public became increasingly aware of the causes and consequences of climate change despite defendants’ fraudulent messaging, defendants allegedly shifted to a campaign of “greenwashing”—i.e., misleadingly presenting their fossil-fuel products as “clean” and “green,” while overstating their negligibly small investments in safer technologies in an attempt to falsely present themselves to consumers as environmentally responsible corporate leaders trying to combat climate change.

The complaint alleges that defendants’ distortions drove continued fossil-fuel usage, accelerating climate change and the adverse impacts it causes: driving sea level rise, heat waves, drought, extreme weather events and other environmental ills.  The fossil fuel industry’s alleged fraud and the climate changes their products have driven are disproportionately harming low income communities and communities of color, particularly those individuals residing in overburdened communities already subject to adverse cumulative environmental and public health stressors, where extreme heat and chronic flooding are having damaging results to public health and safety.

Several attorneys general in other states have brought similar legal claims against the fossil-fuel industry, including Rhode Island, Delaware, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia. Meanwhile, more than a dozen cities and counties have also filed lawsuits accusing oil and gas companies of misleading the public about climate change, including the City of Hoboken.



U.S. Attorney’s Office Has Reached A Settlement With New Jersey Transit  

Agrees to make Newark Penn, Princeton Junction, MetroPark, Trenton, and New Brunswick stations accessible to individuals with disabilities.

October 18, 2022

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey has reached a settlement with New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ Transit) to resolve findings that its intercity rail stations are not accessible to individuals with disabilities in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.

“This Office is committed to ending unlawful barriers to inclusion and equality in our society,” U.S. Attorney Sellinger said. “For too long, people with disabilities have been deprived of equal access to intercity rail stations operated by NJ Transit. In ways large and small, people with disabilities were denied full access to transportation services – whether it was the lack of access to restrooms, no signs, bad ramps, poor access to elevators, or that parking spaces were just too small for those who needed wheelchair access. Through this resolution, we are holding NJ Transit to its obligation to provide accessible transportation services to all. To their credit, NJ Transit has swiftly recognized these deficiencies and already begun to bring its intercity rail stations into compliance with the ADA.”

Under the agreement, New Jersey Transit has committed to make five intercity rail stations – Newark Penn, Princeton Junction, MetroPark, Trenton, and New Brunswick – accessible to individuals with disabilities. New Jersey Transit must modify multiple portions of the rail stations and their access points, including physical modifications to multiple platforms, waiting areas, parking lots, and restrooms.

This matter was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office Civil Rights Division, which U.S. Attorney Sellinger created in 2022. The Division’s sole focus is to enforce federal civil rights laws, including the ADA, with the goal of protecting and upholding the civil rights of those in our community. Individuals who believe they may have been victims of discrimination may file a complaint with the Civil Rights Division at http://www.justice.gov/usao-nj/civil-rights-enforcement/complaint or call the U.S. Attorney’s Office Civil Rights Hotline at (855) 281-3339. Additional information about the ADA can be found at www.ada.gov, or by calling the Department of Justice’s toll-free ADA information line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD).

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael E. Campion, Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Civil Rights Division.

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Under the agreement, New Jersey Transit has committed to make five intercity rail stations – Newark Penn, Princeton Junction, MetroPark, Trenton, and New Brunswick – accessible to individuals with disabilities. New Jersey Transit must modify multiple portions of the rail stations and their access points, including physical modifications to multiple platforms, waiting areas, parking lots, and restrooms.

Budget Concerns Mounting, City Council Set for Hearing

Council leaders finally considering 2022 budget after months of delinquency

October 18, 2022

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Mayor Reed Gusciora stressed the importance of City Council’s budget hearing this week, as outside agencies pressed for adoption of the 2022 City spending document.

The City Council has scheduled a budget hearing for this Thursday, October 20 during their regular meeting, and they will be discussing the docket tonight starting at 5:30. Public comment regarding budget adoption on Thursday will be heard at tonight’s meeting.

One of the departments being harmed the most by Council inaction is Trenton Water Works. The ability of the Water Department to fund projects going forward is at serous risk. Last week, the City received a letter from the New Jersey Infrastructure Bank (I-Bank), state-partnered financiers of the Water Bank Program, seeking compliance with water project funding agreements.

In July and August, the I-Bank notified Council of the imminent risk of default because a budget has not been passed. Last week, they again extended a missed deadline and wrote, “the City must remedy its budget convent default by or before Friday, November 25, 2022.”

“The City’s enactment of a budget by November 25, 2022 is critical if the City is to remain in good standing with the Water Bank [Program] and maintain the City’s ability to realize the financial and infrastructure opportunities offered by the Program, and which will allow the City to effectively operate and maintain the TWW in a manner that is fully and timely compliant with the applicable covenant obligations in the Loan Agreements,” bank officials wrote in the letter.

As of October 1, 2022, all six City Council members have been fined $25 per day for not meeting their obligation to pass a municipal budget in a timely manner, per State law.

“The main function of the City Council is management and approval of the City budget,” Gusciora said. “Everything we do relates to the budget, from water upgrades to road paving. Some of the damage is already done, but there will be more catastrophe to come if Council doesn’t take immediate action.”

The administration introduced the 2022 proposed budget to City Council in April. The City transitioned from a fiscal year budget to a calendar year budget last year, so the 2022 budget proposal represented an unprecedented 30-month stretch where the City did not need to raise the municipal portion of tax rates.

Below is a timeline of budgetary actions this year.

Mayor Reed Gusciora stressed the importance of City Council’s budget hearing this week, as outside agencies pressed for adoption of the 2022 City spending document. File Photo by: Brian McCarthy


CITY OF TRENTON
2022 BUDGET TIMELINE

MARCH

APPROPRIATIONS PASSED: 22-095 Transfers made by Finance of the TY 2021 Appropriations for $2,073,000. (Pass 5-2; Vaughn and Rodriguez vote no)

APPROPRIATIONS PASSED: 22-096 Emergency Appropriations to the CY 2022 Temporary Budget for $64,655,101.28. (Pass 5-1; Vaughn votes no)

APRIL

PROPOSED BUDGET: Council passes resolution to receive Mayor Gusciora’s proposed budget with no municipal tax increase. 

BUDGET HEARINGS CANCELLED: Council President Kathy McBride refused to hold budget meetings until the City hires a “budget officer” to “explain” the proposed budget.

APPROPRIATIONS PASSED: 22-102 Emergency Appropriations to the CY 2022 Temporary Parking Utility Budget for $200,000. (Pass 7-0)

DEPARTMENT REVIEW CANCELLED: City Council leadership cancels departmental budget hearings for Law, Administration, and Public Works.

DEPARTMENT REVIEW CANCELLED: City Council leadership cancels departmental budget hearings for Finance, Municipal Court, Housing & Economic Development, and Inspections.

BUDGET DEADLINE: State law requires City Council adopt a fiscal year municipal budget by the end of April.

MAY

REQUEST FOR HEARINGS: Gusciora writes to McBride refuting her requirement for a budget officer and advising that specific questions about the budget should be communicated and the Administration will provide detailed responses. 

JUNE

APPROPRIATIONS REJECTED: 22-229 Emergency Appropriations to the CY 2022 Temporary Budget in Current Fund including Debt Service for $ $28,184,505.54. (Fail 4-3; McBride, Rodriguez, Vaughn, Wilkins vote no)

APPROPRIATIONS REJECTED: 22-245 Emergency Appropriations to the CY 2022 Temporary Utility Budgets CY 2022 in Current Fund for $19,011462.64. (Fail 4-3; McBride, Rodriguez, Vaughn, Wilkins vote no)

APPROPRIATIONS REJECTED: 22-246 Emergency resolution authorizing emergency appropriations to the CY 2022 Temporary Budgets of the City of Trenton Current Fund including Debt Service for $46,970,773.32. (Fail 4-3; McBride, Rodriguez, Vaughn, Wilkins vote no)  

EXECUTIVE ORDER: Mayor Gusciora issues Executive Order 22-04 permitting payment of City debts and continuation of uninterrupted services to residents and businesses. 

JULY

DEPARTMENT REVIEW: Council holds budget hearings for Municipal Court and Finance.

DEPARTMENT REVIEW: Council holds budget hearings for Housing & Economic Development and Inspections.

DEPARTMENT REVIEW: Council holds budget hearings for Mayor’s Office and Health & Human Services.

DEPARTMENT REVIEW: Council holds budget hearings for Water.

DEPARTMENT REVIEW: Council holds budget hearings for Clerk’s Office and Recreation.

DEPARTMENT REVIEW: Council holds budget hearings for Police and Fire.

TAX DEADLINE EXTENSION: Municipal tax deadline extended for third quarter bills. 

AUGUST

CREDIT DOWNGRADE: Moody’s downgrades City of Trenton’s bond grading following City Council refusal to pay debt service. 

SEPTEMBER

STATE INTERVENES: To allow the City to issue fourth quarter tax bills, the NJ Department of Community Affairs sends the City a letter confirming use of the tax rate from the April proposed budget to generate tax bills.

OCTOBER

BUDGET HEARING: City Council leadership schedules hearing to adopt, or adopt with amendment(s), the 2022 municipal budget.

Alert For Missing Princeton University Student

October 18, 2022

PRINCETON, NJ (MERCER)–The Princeton University, Department of Public Safety is seeking information on the whereabouts of an undergraduate student, Misrach Ewunetie ’24, who has been reported missing.

Ewunetie, 20, was last seen about 3 a.m. Friday in the vicinity of Scully Hall.

She is 5 feet, 4 inches tall and weighs 130 pounds. She has brown eyes, black hair and light brown complexion.

Anyone with information on Ewunetie’s whereabouts should contact the Department of Public Safety at (609) 258-1000.

The Princeton University, Department of Public Safety is seeking information on the whereabouts of an undergraduate student, Misrach Ewunetie ’24, who has been reported missing.