Day: July 17, 2023

Governor Murphy Announces Filing of Advanced Clean Cars II Proposal; 100% Zero Emission Vehicles In NJ By 2035

Signs International Zero Emission Vehicle Declaration to Reaffirm Commitment to ZEV Future in Alignment with Paris Agreement

COP26 declaration on accelerating the transition to 100% zero emission cars and vans

The Office of Administrative Law is expected to publish the proposal in the August 21 New Jersey Register, starting a public comment period that will run through October 20, 2023.

July 17, 2023

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Governor Phil Murphy today announced the filing of the Advanced Clean Cars II (ACCII) proposal with the Office of Administrative Law. ACCII requires vehicle manufacturers to make zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) an increasing percentage of their new light-duty vehicle sales, ramping up to 100% ZEVs by 2035. The rule does not impose any obligations on consumers or car dealers, and provides compliance flexibilities for manufacturers, including a credit trading mechanism. During his 2023 Climate Address in February, Governor Murphy directed the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to begin stakeholdering on ACCII in order to propose the rule this year. The Office of Administrative Law is expected to publish the proposal in the August 21 New Jersey Register, starting a public comment period that will run through October 20, 2023.

Additionally, Governor Murphy today announced that New Jersey has signed on to the Accelerating to Zero Coalition’s Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Declaration, a landmark global agreement launched by the UK at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in November 2021 and signed by 41 national governments and 74 cities, states, and regional governments so far. New Jersey has signed on to Section 2C of the Declaration, which commits the state to a zero emission vehicle future in alignment with the Paris Agreement goals.

“By filing the ACCII proposal, we build upon our nation-leading record of bold climate action while delivering on our promise to utilize every tool at our disposal to combat the intensifying climate crisis,” said Governor Murphy. “Our commitment to bringing the ACCII proposal to fruition is a commitment to every New Jersey family and the air they breathe, air that will be cleaner and healthier tomorrow thanks to the steps we’re taking to reduce emissions today. That commitment is underscored by our signing of the ZEV Declaration, which recognizes that New Jersey is just one crucial piece of our global response to climate change.”

“Under Governor Murphy’s leadership and through the tireless work of the DEP, New Jersey is one step closer to turning our vision for a zero emission future into a reality,” said Catherine Klinger, Executive Director, Governor’s Office of Climate Action and the Green Economy. “Reducing emissions from the vehicle sector, which accounts for more than 40% of emissions in New Jersey, will deliver considerable public health and climate benefits for generations to come. And, as a signatory of the ZEV Declaration and a global leader in climate action, New Jersey is proud to stand alongside more than 100 governments around the world in our fight against the urgent climate crisis.”

The Administration’s recently adopted budget includes a new $10 million appropriation to support the increasing number of electric vehicles on the road. The DEP will use these funds to meet demand for installation of charging stations at businesses, multi-unit residential buildings, and public locations. The FY24 budget appropriation is only a portion of the $75 million investment in EVs and charging stations made this week from the Murphy Administration.

“As New Jersey continues experiencing the adverse impacts of climate change, we have the power and obligation to reduce its effects by limiting the emissions of climate pollutants,” said Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette. “Through the adoption of zero-emissions vehicle standards, New Jersey can reduce its greatest source of climate damaging emissions, improve air quality and public health, and support a growing cleantech marketplace that will create even more green jobs in New Jersey and beyond.”

“The actions the Administration is taking today to increase the number of electric vehicles on the road are vitally important to fighting the ravages of climate change,” said Board of Public Utilities President Joseph L. Fiordaliso. “As we know, the state’s transportation sector accounts for more than 40 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Filing the ACC II proposal with OAL and signing the COP 26 declaration will go a long way toward providing a cleaner, healthier environment for all New Jerseyans for generations to come.”

“New Jersey can no longer ignore the urgent reality of the climate crisis,” said Alex Ambrose, Policy Analyst with New Jersey Policy Perspective. “Record-breaking heat waves and dangerous air quality are a threat to everyone in the state, especially those living in already overburdened communities. The rapid adoption of Advanced Clean Cars II will reduce air pollution and bring us closer to a cleaner future. Thank you to Governor Murphy and Commissioner LaTourette for taking this important step to improve air quality and bring relief to families across New Jersey.”

“Today’s announcement on ACCII is just one necessary tool in reducing climate- and health-harming emissions that come from the cars we drive,” said Pamela Frank, CEO of ChargEVC-NJ. “Timing matters. It is notable today that the Governor follows through in his announcement last February to get these regulations in place.”

“With so many New Jersey communities suffering from poor air quality from car and truck pollution, we need policies in place to address the issue,” said Kathy Harris, Senior Clean Vehicles and Fuels Advocate, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “It’s exciting to see New Jersey begin the rulemaking process on the Advanced Clean Cars II and sign on to the COP26 zero emission declaration to address the greenhouse gases and other pollution emitted from transportation. The Advanced Clean Cars II rule will undoubtedly provide many benefits to New Jersey, including improved public health and vehicle owner savings.”

“We are extremely excited for New Jersey’s adoption of Advanced Clean Cars II, getting thousands more electric vehicles on the road while solidifying New Jersey’s role as a climate leader. This rule adoption will directly lead to improved air quality, public health, climate safety, and financial savings,” said Allison McLeod, Senior Policy Director, New Jersey LCV. “Furthermore, since the majority of New Jerseyans – particularly low-income drivers – purchase used vehicles, it will also help with the purchase of affordable vehicles in the secondary market.”

“Two decades ago, New Jersey took bold action by passing the Clean Cars Act. Today’s Advanced Clean Cars II rule proposal from the Murphy Administration moves us closer to a cleaner, electric transportation future that gets us off oil and fights the largest source of climate pollutants. Amidst a world-wide heat wave, there are clear benefits of New Jersey adopting this program this year which will lead to getting more electric vehicles on our roads and joining other leading Clean Car states,” said Doug O’Malley, Director, Environment New Jersey.

“The Advanced Clean Car II program is one of the most important policies for New Jersey to adopt. The electrification of our cars is our present and our future. The EV market is already here, the manufacturers are committed and the public wants the options. For New Jersey, we need to jump in now. The faster the state makes its commitment to achieve 100% sales of new zero emission vehicles, the easier our transition and the greater the consumer choice,” said Anjuli Ramos-Busot, New Jersey Director of the Sierra Club. “The Advanced Clean Cars II targets in New Jersey can help build and maintain market leadership, which is critical to growing jobs. We thank NJDEP and Governor Murphy for moving forward on this important rule and we are eager to see it adopted before the end of the year.”

Press Pool File Photos

Five New Jersey Players Won $50,000; Including Ticket Sold At Hamilton Shoprite

Powerball Jackpot Rolls to $900,000,000

July 17, 2023

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Five New Jersey Lottery tickets matched four of the five white balls and the Power Ball drawn for the Saturday, July 15, drawing winning the $50,000 second-tier prize.  One of those tickets was purchased with the Power Play option, multiplying the prize to $100,000. 

Those tickets were sold at the following locations:

Passaic County ($100,000): Jackpocket, 355 Warwick Turnpike, Hewitt;

Bergen Count ($50,000):  Paramus Quick & Fresh, 100 Route 17 North, Paramus;

Mercer County ($50,000): Shoprite #566 of Hamilton Sq., 1235 Route 33, Hamilton Square;

Middlesex County ($50,000):  Krauszers, 525 Avenel St., Avenel;

Ocean County ($50,000): Wine Center of Manchester, 1023 Route 70 West, Manchester.

The winning numbers for the Saturday, July 15,drawing were: 02, 09, 43, 55, and 57. The Red Power Ball number was 18. The Power Play was 2X. 142,618 New Jersey players took home an estimated $709,269 in prizes ranging from $4 to $200. 

The Powerball jackpot rolls to $900,000,000 for the next drawing to be held Monday, July 17, at 10:59 pm.

Sauickie Proposal Would Save More Farmland Slated For Warehouse Development

July 17, 2023/Assembly Republicans Press Release

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Farmers enticed to sell their land to warehouse or high-density developers would receive counter offers from the state under a new preservation program proposed by Assemblyman Alex Sauickie.

“While warehouses are good for consumers, they significantly impact a community’s character. Not every municipality may have the infrastructure to handle the increased truck traffic or the land may be in a historically significant area,” Sauickie (R-Ocean) said. “That is why my goal with this bill and other measures has been to give farmers and towns more tools to make the decisions they believe are right for their communities.”

The bill (A5723) requires owners intending to sell farmland for warehouse development or any other high-density development project to notify the State Agriculture Development Committee. The committee would then determine if the land is suitable for preservation and make a competitive offer based on the landowner’s terms, existing purchase offers, and land value and development rights. 

“This provides landowners with options that they may not otherwise have considered,” Sauickie said. “Protecting the land from development will also reduce carbon emissions from heavy construction equipment and additional truck traffic, while also preserving the residents’ quality of life.”

Because of the environmental benefits, Sauickie says the $50 million preservation program would be supported through the state’s global warming solutions fund, which receives money through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

“Balancing farmland preservation, warehouse construction, and residential and environmental concerns is important throughout the state, but especially in smaller and more rural towns,” Sauickie added.

Another Sauickie-sponsored bill (A4950) that concerns warehouse development requires the State Planning Commission to prepare, adopt and disseminate model ordinances to help local governments prevent land-use conflicts when warehouse development applications are received. It unanimously passed the Assembly Agriculture and Food Security Committee late last year.

“A thoughtful and more flexible approach to development and preservation is needed to grow our economy while maintaining the Garden State’s valuable agricultural industry,” Sauickie said.

One Juvenile Shot On NY Avenue In Trenton

July 17, 2023

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Around 10:45 p.m. last night Trenton Police, Trenton Fire Department, TEMS and Captial Health Paramedics responded to the area of the Ambassador Banquet Hall in the 600 Block of New York Avenue for a reported shooting. A short time later it was reported that a person was brought to the Trauma Center at Captial Health Regional Medical Center that was a victim of a shooting.

Trenton Police say that they responded to a Shot Spotter activation for thirteen rounds fired. Police say that one juvenile was shot in the hip and finger and suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Police have identified a possible juvenile suspect who fired the shots.

The Trenton Police Shooting Response Team is investigating. file photos

Manahawkin, NJ, Man Among 14 Defendants, Including Leaders of the Colombo Organized Crime Family, Plead Guilty to Various Felony Charges

Defendants Included the Colombo Crime Family’s Underboss, Consigliere and Captains

July 17, 2023

NEW YORK–On Friday, July 14, 2023, at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, Vincent Ricciardo, also known as “Vinny Unions,” a captain in the Colombo crime family of La Cosa Nostra, pleaded guilty to racketeering related to his extortion of a high-ranking official of a Queens-based labor union (the “Labor Union”), loansharking, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.  Ricciardo is the last of the defendants indicted in 2021 and 2022 in connection with various offenses committed by members and associates of the Colombo crime family involving extortion, money laundering conspiracy, drug-trafficking, fraud and loansharking offenses.  Previously, Benjamin Castellazzo, the Colombo family underboss, pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy and Ralph DiMatteo, the Colombo consigliere, pleaded guilty to racketeering involving extortion and money laundering conspiracy.  Colombo family captains Theodore Persico, Jr., who was slated to become the crime family’s next boss, and Richard Ferrara also pleaded guilty to racketeering.  Other defendants convicted of racketeering included Colombo family soldier Michael Uvino and associates Thomas Costa and Dominick Ricciardo.

In addition, various employee welfare benefit plan brokers and providers, including Albert Alimena, Joseph Bellantoni, and Erin Thompkins, pleaded guilty to health care fraud conspiracy stemming from their agreement with Colombo family members to divert benefit funds to the Mafia family.  The guilty pleas took place before United States District Judge Hector Gonzalez. 

Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, announced the guilty pleas.

“Today, there can be no doubt that the Colombo crime family has been decapitated as a result of the guilty pleas by its leadership and other facilitators of lucrative schemes,” stated United States Attorney Peace.  “This Office, and the outstanding prosecutors, Special Agents, and detectives responsible for this significant blow are nevertheless mindful of the resilience of organized crime and we will not relent in our efforts to dismantle, disrupt, and disable this destructive menace in our communities.”

Mr. Peace expressed his appreciation to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), the New York City Police Department, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration and Office of the Inspector General, the Nassau County Police Department, the New York City Department of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime and Gang Section for their invaluable assistance in the investigation.

According to earlier court filings and facts presented during the guilty plea proceedings, the defendants and their co-conspirators committed a variety of crimes – including extortion, loansharking, fraud, and drug-trafficking – to enrich themselves and to promote the continued operation of the Colombo organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra.  The Colombo family’s administration, including boss Andrew Russo (who passed away during the pendency of the case), underboss Castellazzo and consigliere DiMatteo, as well captains Persico, Ferrara, and Vincent Ricciardo, agreed to use extortionate means, including threats of bodily harm, to force the official to give over a portion of his salary and, eventually, to take decisions at the Labor Union and with its affiliated healthcare benefit fund (the “Health Fund”) that would enrich the Colombo crime family’s administration, including attempts to force the trustees of the Health Fund to select vendors who were associated with the Colombo crime family and handpicked by some of the defendants.  The crime family’s administration sought to divert more than $10,000 per month from the Health Fund’s assets to the Mafia.

In addition, Castellazzo, DiMatteo, Persico, Ferrara, Ricciardo, and Uvino joined with defendants Alimena, Thompkins, and Bellantoni to devise a scheme to launder money from Health Fund contracts and vendor payments.  These defendants attempted to re-bid Health Fund vendor contracts for claims administration, pharmaceuticals, and other health services to persons and companies affiliated with Bellantoni, and to select a company run by Alimena as the Health Fund’s third-party administrator.   

Bonanno crime family soldier John Ragano, who was also known as “Bazoo” and the “Maniac,” also led a scheme to issue fraudulent workplace safety training certifications from two occupational safety schools he purported to operate in Long Island.   Rather than provide workplace safety trainings required to obtain Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) certification, Ragano along with John Glover and Domenick Ricciardo, falsified paperwork submitted to the U.S. Department of Labor and other government agencies which represented that hundreds of workers had completed construction safety training courses when they had not.  Instead, various defendants used Ragano’s schools to conduct meetings involving members of La Cosa Nostra and to store illegal drugs and fireworks.  In November 2022, Ragano pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud in connection with a means of identification.  He was sentenced in April 2023 to 57 months’ imprisonment.  In December 2022, Domenick Ricciardo pleaded guilty to racketeering and was sentenced in June 2023 to 28 months’ imprisonment.

When sentenced, Castellazzo, DiMatteo, Ferrara, Martino, Persico, Vincent Ricciardo, and Uvino each face up to 20 years in prison.  Costa faces up to 30 years in prison.  Glover faces up to 15 years in prison.  Alimena, Bellantoni, and Thompkins face up to 10 years in prison.   

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Organized Crime and Gangs Section.  Assistant United States Attorneys James P. McDonald, Devon Lash, Michael W. Gibaldi, and Andrew Reich are in charge of the prosecution.

The Defendants:

Age: 69
Pompano Beach, Florida

Age: 41
Massapequa, New York

BENJAMIN CASTELLAZZO (also known as “Benji”)
Age: 85
Manahawkin, New Jersey

Age: 54
West Islip, New York

Age: 68
Merrick, New York

Age: 61
Brooklyn, New York

Age: 64
Queens, New York

Age: 45
Medford, New York

THEODORE PERSICO, JR. (also known as “Teddy”)
Age: 59
Brooklyn, New York

JOHN RAGANO (also known as “Bazoo” and the “Maniac”)
Age: 61
Franklin Square, New York

Age: 57
Franklin Square, New York

VINCENT RICCIARDO (also known as “Vinny Unions”)
Age: 77
Franklin Square, New York

Age: 55
Franklin Square, New York

Age: 57
Garden City, New York

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 21-CR-466 (S-1) (HG) United States Attorney’s Office