NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ (MIDDLESEX)–Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone announced today that a man charged with Aggravated Manslaughter, Vehicular Homicide, and Assault by Auto has been sentenced to 6 years in prison.
On June 28, 2022, at approximately 11:50 P.M., on Route 130 in North Brunswick Township a 2016 Toyota Highlander driven by Egrevel Vasquez-Garcia, 28, of Hightstown, struck a Jeep Patriot driven by Levelt Alexis, Jr. at a high rate of speed causing Mr. Alexis’ death. The Highlander then crossed into oncoming lanes of travel where it struck other vehicles. Investigation revealed that Vasquez-Garcia was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash.
On February 21, 2023, Vasquez-Garcia pled guilty to second-degree Vehicular Homicide and Driving While Intoxicated. Superior Court Judge Thomas
J. Buck, J.S.C., sentenced Vasquez-Garcia to 6 years in state prison pursuant to the No Early Release Act. Vasquez-Garcia must serve 85% of his sentence before being eligible for parole and his driver’s license will also be suspended for ten years upon his release from prison.
Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office determined that Saal was soliciting an inmate who he believed was being released from jail in the near future to commit a murder which would exonerate Saal, for $15,000.
October 27, 2022
NORTH BRUNSWICK – PLAINSBORO, NJ (MIDDLESEX)–Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone announced today that a man was charged in connection with a murder for hire plot.
In August of 2019, Kenneth Saal, 30, formerly of Lindenwold, in Camden County, was charged with murdering Carolyn Byington, 26, of Plainsboro, in her apartment when she went home for lunch. Saal was Byington’s coworker. Plainsboro Police responded to Byington’s home after they were asked by her other coworkers to do a wellness check on her. When police arrived on scene at approximately 5:57 pm, they found Byington, who was pronounced dead at the scene.
Saal was later indicted for first-degree murder, burglary in the second degree, endangering an injured victim, hindering one’s own apprehension, burglary, and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, all third-degree crimes. The indictment also includes charges of stalking and tampering with evidence, both fourth-degree crimes. Saal is scheduled for trial in December of 2022 for the above crimes.
The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office received a letter on or about October 13, 2022, alleging that Saal was conspiring to commit a copycat murder to create doubt about his guilt.
An investigation by Detective Walter Kelley of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office determined that Saal was soliciting an inmate who he believed was being released from jail in the near future to commit a murder which would exonerate Saal, for $15,000.
Saal was charged with first-degree conspiracy to commit Murder, second-degree conspiracy to tamper with a witness, and second-degree conspiracy to hinder his own prosecution. Saal is being housed at the Middlesex County Adult Correctional Center and is scheduled for a detention hearing in Middlesex County Superior Court on Friday, October 28, 2022.
The investigation is active and continuing. Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Kelley of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office at (732) 745-3330.
As is the case with all criminal defendants, the charges against Saal are merely accusations and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Investigation by NJSP and ATF Led to Seizure of Five Handguns and an Assault Weapon
Barrett R. Griffin, III, 33, of North Brunswick, NJ, was sentenced to an aggregate term of 11 years in prison, including a period of 6.8 years of parole ineligibility
September 27, 2022
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)– Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin today announced that a Middlesex man was sentenced to 11 years in state prison for illegally transporting handguns into New Jersey for unlawful sale. The conviction stems from an investigation by the New Jersey State Police (NJSP) and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) that led to the seizure of five handguns and an assault rifle transported to New Jersey from Georgia.
Barrett R. Griffin, III, 33, of North Brunswick, NJ, was sentenced to an aggregate term of 11 years in prison, including a period of 6.8 years of parole ineligibility, in a hearing before Superior Court Judge Mark P. Tarantino in Burlington County on September 9, 2022. Griffin pleaded guilty on July 18, 2022 to second-degree transporting firearms into the state for unlawful sale or transfer and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.
“Keeping illegal weapons out of our state and off our streets is paramount to public safety,” said Acting Attorney General Platkin. “We are aggressively targeting those responsible for the proliferation of guns and gun violence in our communities, and that includes gun traffickers who illegally transport weapons into our state and put them in the hands of criminals.”
“The prison sentence handed down to this defendant sends a clear message that we have zero tolerance for gun trafficking in New Jersey,” said Director Pearl Minato, of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We will continue to work with law enforcement partners throughout New Jersey and beyond to stop the illegal flow of firearms into our state and hold accountable all those who profit from it.”
Griffin was arrested earlier this year following an investigation by NJSP and the ATF. During the course of the investigation, a motor vehicle stop was made on the car Griffin was driving on the New Jersey Turnpike in Mount Laurel, NJ on February 7, 2022. Following a search of the vehicle, detectives seized five handguns, one assault rifle, and four large capacity ammunition magazines from the vehicle’s trunk.
Deputy Attorney General Karen M. Bornstein prosecuted the case for the Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ) Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Cassandra Montalto and Bureau Chief Lauren Scarpa Yfantis.
The investigation was conducted by the New Jersey State Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Fatima Agosto, Esq., Burlington County Public Defender’s Office.
NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ (MIDDLESEX)–Rotary Club of Plainsboro, North & South Brunswick, held its Annual Changing of the Guard ceremony and inducted new office bearers for the rotary year 2022-2023.
Outgoing President of the club Blisse Vakkalagadda presented various projects that the club completed during her presidency. Blisse along with Sudharani Kankanala, had also played a pivotal role as mentors of the Interact club of North Brunswick and helped organize various meaningful service projects. During Blisse’s presidency, the club also did some impactful international service projects.
District Governor John Shockley, Past DG Dr. Tulsi Maharjan and Kalpana Patel, President, Rotary Club of Robbinsville-Hamilton, NJ, were in attendance for the changing of the guard ceremony.
DG John Shockley conducted the oath ceremony for the incoming President Vijay Garg and his team for the year 2022-2023. During his acceptance remarks, Vijay Garg said that he is looking forward to working with the team and continuing doing various community projects aligned with the Rotary International causes. “I am excited and honored to accept the role,” said Vijay.
Vijay is a successful Entrepreneur, Past North-East President of IT Serve, Board Member of TiE, GOPIO and other social organizations. Vijay with his community reach and leadership skills will help the club in taking up bigger projects and extending its reach.
The Executive Team 2022-23 consists of Sanjeev Dixit as Secretary, Sanjay Pagidimarri as Treasurer, Venkat Jagarlamudi as President-Elect, Ganesh Madda as the Foundation Chair, Jaydip Sen as PR Chair, Suresh Pannala as Membership Chair, Sudharani Kankanala as Service Project Chair, Srinivas Gattu as Fundraising Chair and Sunil Nambiar as International Projects Chair.
The changing of the guard ceremony was well attended by the Rotary Club members, Rotary Interact Club members, families, and prospective members. Representatives from organizations like ITServe, IBA, SMEC joined and discussed collaboration on future Community Service Projects.
The club which is also celebrating its 20th charter Anniversary this year, recognized six senior members, Suresh Pannala, Sunil Nambiar, Rajeev Mehta, Nishit Mehta, Mahalingam Narayanan and Darshan Doshi, who completed over twelve years of service as dedicated and passionate Rotarians.
About Rotary Club of Plainsboro, North & South Brunswick, NJ
In 2002 a few prominent people from the Community, living in Plainsboro, South Brunswick, North Brunswick, and surrounding areas decided to charter a new Rotary Club in Central New Jersey with the intention of serving the local and international community. The club started out with three active members and rapidly grew to about more than 25 members living in various parts of the state. Although the club is open to people of all race, color, and religion, most of the current members are people of Indian Origin.
Since its inception, the Rotary Club of Plainsboro, North & South Brunswick has proudly sponsored several local and international charitable projects. For more information, visit PlainsboroRotary.org.
LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP, NJ (OCEAN)–Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that on July 8, 2022, Michael Klimowicz, 32, of North Brunswick, was sentenced by the Honorable Guy P. Ryan, P.J.Cr.P, to seven years New Jersey State Prison as a result of his previously entered guilty plea to Possession of Marijuana in a Quantity Greater than Five Pounds but Less than Twenty-Five Pounds with Intent to Distribute in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5a(1) and N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5b(10), in connection with an arrest that occurred in Long Beach Township on January 27, 2019. Klimowicz pled guilty to the charge before Judge Ryan on April 12, 2022.
An investigation by the Long Beach Township Police Department revealed that a residence in the Holgate section of Long Beach Township was being utilized by Klimowicz to store and distribute narcotics. In furtherance of the investigation, Detectives executed a court-authorized search warrant on the subject residence on January 27, 2019. As a result, Detectives seized roughly 11.5 pounds of Marijuana, additional quantities of other illegal narcotics, and approximately $9,300 in United States currency. Klimowicz was arrested at the residence without incident; he was transported to the Ocean County Jail, and later released as a consequence of New Jersey Bail Reform.
Prosecutor Billhimer acknowledges the diligent efforts of Supervising Assistant Prosecutor Kristin Pressman who handled the case on behalf of the State, as well as the Long Beach Township Police Department Patrol Division, Long Beach Township Police Department Detective Bureau, Long Beach Township Police Department K-9 Unit, and Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office High Tech Crime Unit, for their collective assistance in connection with this investigation leading to Klimowicz’s apprehension and now his state prison sentence.
EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ (MIDDLESEX)–Around 1:34 p.m. firefighters responded to the New Jersey Turnpike Inner Roadway in the area mile post 81.1 for a fully involved vehicle fire. When firefighters arrived, they found a pickup truck with a snowplow well involved and quickly extinguished the fire. No further information is available at this time.
NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ (MIDDLESEX)–Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone and Chief Joseph Battaglia of the North Brunswick Township Police Department announced today that a woman has been charged in connection with a fatal collision that resulted in the death of two nine-year-old children as well as serious injuries to others.
On Thursday, November 25, 2021, at approximately 11:53 P.M., authorities responded to the southbound lane of Route 130 near the on-ramp to Route 1 in North Brunswick Township following the report of a serious crash involving a marked Old Bridge Police patrol vehicle and a Honda Accord. Upon their arrival, authorities located Yokauri Batista-Alcantara, 31, of New Brunswick, and two children at the scene. Batista-Alcantara and the juveniles were transported from the scene to a nearby hospital where the juveniles were pronounced dead.
Authorities also located two Old Bridge Township police officers and an in-custody civilian passenger at the scene. The officers and the passenger were transported to a nearby hospital where they were treated for their injuries.
An initial investigation by Detective Jonathan Berman of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office determined the two police officers were transporting the in-custody passenger to the Middlesex County Adult Correction Center in North Brunswick Township when Batista-Alcantara drove the wrong way down the on-ramp and struck the police vehicle. At this time, reckless driving and alcohol consumption are believed to be contributing factors.
On Friday, November 26, 2021, Batista-Alcantara was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree aggravated manslaughter, two counts of second-degree vehicular homicide, two counts of second-degree
endangering the welfare of a child, two counts of aggravated assault, and one count of fourth-degree assault by auto.
Batista-Alcantara is presently lodged at the Middlesex County Adult Correction Center where she is being held pending a pre-trial detention hearing in Superior Court.
As is the case with all criminal defendants, the charges against Batista- Alcantara are merely accusations and she is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The investigation is active and continuing. Anyone with information or video footage of the area is asked to call Detective Jonathan Berman of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office at (732) 745-4328.
NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ (MIDDLESEX)–The Attorney General’s Office is conducting an investigation of a fatal vehicle collision that occurred on November 25, 2021 in North Brunswick, N.J. Two children sustained fatal injuries. The decedents’ identities are not being released at this time.
According to the preliminary investigation, the fatal incident occurred on November 25, 2021 at 11:35 p.m. at the intersection of Route 1 and Route 130 in North Brunswick, N.J. Two vehicles were involved in a collision. The first vehicle was operated by a civilian driving on the wrong side of the highway, and also contained two children. The second vehicle was a marked Old Bridge Police Department vehicle driven by an Old Bridge police officer, and which contained a second Old Bridge police officer and a civilian. Both children in the civilian vehicle died from injuries sustained in the crash. Both officers and the civilian within the police vehicle sustained injuries.
This investigation is being conducted pursuant to Attorney General Directive 2019-4, which implements the statutory requirement that the Attorney General’s Office conduct the investigation of any death that occurs during an encounter with a law enforcement officer acting in the officer’s official capacity or while the decedent is in custody, and which establishes clear standards and procedures for conducting such investigations. Per Section II.H.3 of the Directive, the investigation will be bifurcated, with the AG’s Office investigating the conduct of the officers involved in the collision, and the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office investigating the conduct of any other parties that may be responsible.
The investigation is ongoing and no further information is being released at this time.
NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ (MIDDLESEX)–Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone and Chief Joseph Battaglia of the North Brunswick Police Department announce today that a man has been sentenced for his role in causing a serious crash that left multiple people injured on August 8, 2020.
An investigation by Patrolman Jason Zier of the North Brunswick Police Department and Detective Jonathan Berman of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office determined that on August 8, 2020, at approximately 8:50 pm Christopher L. Mertens, 42, of Monmouth Junction was driving while intoxicated. The investigation determined Mertens, accompanied by his two young children, was travelling southbound on Route 1 at a high speed when he rear ended a 2003 Chevrolet Blazer causing it to roll over and catch on fire.
The driver of the Blazer, a nineteen-year-old man, sustained burn injuries and was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. The sole passenger of the Blazer, a twenty-one-year-old woman, along with Mertens’ children were also transported from the scene for medical treatment.
On August 9, 2020, Mertens was arrested and charged with second- degree aggravated assault, second-degree endangering the welfare of a child, third-degree assault by auto, third-degree endangering another person by knowingly engaging in conduct which creates a substantial risk of death, three counts of fourth-degree assault by auto, and fourth-degree obstruction.
On October 27, 2021, following sentencing arguments from Assistant Prosecutor Keith Abrams and Assistant Prosecutor Kaitlyn Poggi, the Honorable Craig Corson, J.S.C. sentenced Mertens to eleven years in state prison on one count of second-degree aggravated assault, two counts of second-degree endangering the welfare of a child, one count of third-degree aggravated assault, and one count of fourth-degree causing serious bodily injury. Mertens must serve 85% of his sentence, approximately nine-and-a- half years, before he is eligible for parole. Upon his release, Mertens will be subject to an eight-year loss of license.
Heavy rains from Tropical Storm Henri flooded the area overnight with up to eight inches of rain in the Central New Jersey area. Many people traveling on flooded roadways were trapped in the vehicles and needed to be rescued.
Hightstown Fire Company reported responding to at least 10 incidents with the majority being water rescues. Hightstown firefighters rescued eight civilians who were trapped in their vehicles or relocated to the roof of their vehicles due to flood waters.
The National Weather Service reported that 4 to 8 inches of rain fell from the storm and that Middlesex and Mercer Counties were particular hard hit.
Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone announced today that six County residents have been arrested for their possession of material depicting the sexual exploitation or abuse of children.
On May 13, 2021, officers of the East Brunswick, Edison, Highland Park, Monroe, New Brunswick, North Brunswick, Perth Amboy, and Sayreville Police Departments along with detectives of the New Jersey State Police and the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office executed search warrants at six residences across the County.
The investigation resulted in the following arrests:
Edison was arrested and charged for second-degree Using a File-sharing Program to Store Items Depicting the Sexual Exploitation or Abuse of Children, second-degree Possession with the Intent to Distribute Child Pornography, and first-degree Possession of Child Pornography after having been found to be in possession of 100,000 items of material depicting the sexual exploitation or abuse of children.
Hongpeng Zheng, 24, of New Brunswick was arrested and charged for second-degree Distribution of Child Pornography, third-degree Possession of Child Pornography, and second-degree Using a File-sharing Program to Store Items Depicting the Sexual Exploitation or Abuse of Children.
Ali Armas-Iriarte, 58, of Highland Park was arrested and charged for third-degree Possession of Child Pornography, second-degree Possession with the Intent to Distribute Child Pornography, and second-degree Using a File-sharing Program to Store Items Depicting the Sexual Exploitation or Abuse of Children.
Jeff Caramella, 21, of the Parlin section of Sayreville was arrested and charged for third-degree Possession of Child Pornography.
James Walden, 50, of North Brunswick was arrested and charged for third-degree Possession of Child Pornography.
A juvenile, 17, of Monroe was charged for third-degree Possession of Child Pornography.
Additionally, on May 6, 2021, Kenneth Godfrey, 41, of Woodbridge Township was also arrested and charged with third-degree Possession of Child Pornography.
On May 10, 2021, a juvenile, 14, of Edison was also charged for second-degree Possession of Child Pornography.
All of the aforementioned individuals were arrested and charged following separate investigations by Detective Daniel Lojek and Detective Stephanie Redline of the Internet Crimes Against Children Unit of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, which revealed the individuals possessed material depicting the sexual exploitation or abuse of children. Presently, the investigations appear to be unconnected and the individuals are unknown to one another.
Nie is presently lodged at the Middlesex Adult Correction Center pending a pre-trial detention hearing in Superior Court. The remaining defendants individuals are likewise lodged at the Middlesex Adult Correction Center pending their initial appearances in Superior Court this afternoon.
The investigations are active and continuing. Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Lojek at (732) 745-5924 or Detective Redline at (732) 867-1496 .
As is the case with all criminal defendants, the charges against Zheng, Nie, Armas-Iriarte, Caramella, Walden, Godfrey, and the juveniles are merely accusations and they are presumed innocent until proven guilty or, as in the case of the juveniles, adjudicated delinquent.
ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)–As we reported Saturday on the Colonial Pipeline that runs though New Jersey and supplies gasoline, diesel fuel and aircraft fuel to the eastern part of the country has announced that the entire pipeline should be operational by noon today. There is no need to hoard gasoline or other fuel and disrupt the local supply chain as seen and reported in other parts of the country.
Locally the pipeline runs though Burlington, Mercer County, Middlesex County on its way to Linden, New Jersey and was shut down to a ransomware cyber attack.
System Restart and Operational Update #2 Update: Thursday, May 13, 4:40 p.m.
Colonial Pipeline has continued to make substantial progress in safely restarting our pipeline system. We can now report that we have restarted our entire pipeline system and that product delivery has commenced to all markets we serve.
Following this restart, it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal. Some markets served by Colonial Pipeline may experience, or continue to experience, intermittent service interruptions during this start-up period. Colonial will move as much gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel as is safely possible and will continue to do so until markets return to normal.
This would not have been possible without the commitment and dedication of the many Colonial team members across the pipeline who worked safely and tirelessly through the night to get our lines up and running. We are grateful for their dedicated service and professionalism during these extraordinary times.
See update below from the Colonial Pipeline:
Update: Thursday, May 13, 9 a.m.
Colonial Pipeline has made substantial progress in safely restarting our pipeline system and can report that product delivery has commenced in a majority of the markets we service. By mid-day today, we project that each market we service will be receiving product from our system. The green segments on this map are operational, meaning product delivery has commenced. Blue lines will be operational later today.
This would not have been possible without the commitment and dedication of the many Colonial team members across the pipeline who worked safely and tirelessly safely through the night to get our lines up and running. We are grateful for their dedicated service and professionalism during these extraordinary times.
Colonial Pipeline Company, founded in 1962, connects refineries – primarily located in the Gulf Coast – with customers and markets throughout the Southern and Eastern United States through a pipeline system that spans more than 5,500 miles. The company delivers refined petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, home heating oil, and fuel for the U.S. Military. Colonial is committed to safety and environmental stewardship across its operations.
Colonial Pipeline is the largest refined products pipeline in the United States, transporting more than 100 million gallons or 2.5 million barrels per day. Colonial transports approximately 45 percent of all fuel consumed on the East Coast, providing refined products to more than 50 million Americans.
Specifically, Colonial transports various grades of gasoline, diesel fuel, home heating oil, jet fuel, and fuels for the U.S. military through a pipeline system. The system is connected refineries in the Gulf Coast and in the Northeast. The majority of the system is underground, with tankage and other facilities at key receipt, storage and delivery points.
Related MidJersey.news coverage on Colonial Pipeline incident here:
ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MECER)–As reports were coming in of gas stations running out of gas in the south east United States from the hoarding of gasoline and other fuel products the Colonial Pipeline announced the restart of of the pipeline after a ransomware cyber attack. The company states that it may take several days for the delivery supply chain to return to normal. See press releases from Colonial Pipeline below for the latest updates.
Wednesday, May 12, 5:10 p.m.
Colonial Pipeline initiated the restart of pipeline operations today at approximately 5 p.m. ET.
Following this restart, it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal. Some markets served by Colonial Pipeline may experience, or continue to experience, intermittent service interruptions during the start-up period. Colonial will move as much gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel as is safely possible and will continue to do so until markets return to normal.
As we initiate our return to service, our primary focus remains safety. As part of this startup process, Colonial will conduct a comprehensive series of pipeline safety assessments in compliance with all Federal pipeline safety requirements.
This is the first step in the restart process and would not have been possible without the around-the-clock support of Colonial Pipeline’s dedicated employees who have worked tirelessly to help us achieve this milestone. We would also like to thank the White House for their leadership and collaboration, as well as the Department of Energy, Department of Transportation, FBI, PHMSA, FERC and other federal, state and local agencies for their ongoing support.
We will continue to provide updates as restart efforts progress.
Tuesday, May 11, 5:15 p.m.
Colonial Pipeline continues to make forward progress in our around-the-clock efforts to return our system to service, with additional laterals operating manually to deliver existing inventories to markets along the pipeline. Markets experiencing supply constraints and/or not serviced by other fuel delivery systems are being prioritized. We are collaborating with the Department of Energy (DOE) to evaluate market conditions to support this prioritization.
Since our pipeline system was taken offline, working with our shippers, Colonial has delivered approximately 967,000 barrels (~41 million gallons) to various delivery points along our system. This includes delivery into the following markets: Atlanta, Ga., Belton and Spartanburg, S.C., Charlotte and Greensboro, N.C., Baltimore, Md., and Woodbury and Linden N.J.
Additionally, in preparation for our system restart, we have taken delivery of an additional 2 million barrels (~84 million gallons) from refineries for deployment upon restart.
Consistent with our safety policies and regulatory requirements, Colonial has increased aerial patrols of our pipeline right of way and deployed more than 50 personnel to walk and drive ~ 5,000 miles of pipeline each day.
Actions taken by the Federal Government to issue a temporary hours of service exemption for motor carriers and drivers transporting refined products across Colonial’s footprint and actions taken by several Governors to lift weight restrictions on tanker trucks should help alleviate local supply disruptions. This is in addition to the Reid Vapor Pressure wavier issued today by the U.S. EPA that will also help alleviate supply constraints in several states serviced by our system. We would like to thank the White House for their leadership and collaboration in resolving this matter as well as the DOE, PHMSA, FERC and other federal agencies for their ongoing support.
Our primary focus remains the safe and efficient restoration of service to our pipeline system, while minimizing disruption to our customers and all those who rely on Colonial Pipeline. We will continue to provide updates as restoration efforts progress.
Related MidJersey.news coverage on Colonial Pipeline incident here:
Move slider to 3:41 for President Joe Biden’s remarks on the Colonial Pipeline.
May 10, 2021
Update — Monday, May 10, 12:25 p.m.
Colonial Pipeline continues to dedicate vast resources to restoring pipeline operations quickly and safely. Segments of our pipeline are being brought back online in a stepwise fashion, in compliance with relevant federal regulations and in close consultation with the Department of Energy, which is leading and coordinating the Federal Government’s response.
Restoring our network to normal operations is a process that requires the diligent remediation of our systems, and this takes time. In response to the cybersecurity attack on our system, we proactively took certain systems offline to contain the threat, which temporarily halted all pipeline operations, and affected some of our IT systems. To restore service, we must work to ensure that each of these systems can be brought back online safely.
While this situation remains fluid and continues to evolve, the Colonial operations team is executing a plan that involves an incremental process that will facilitate a return to service in a phased approach. This plan is based on a number of factors with safety and compliance driving our operational decisions, and the goal of substantially restoring operational service by the end of the week. The Company will provide updates as restoration efforts progress.
We continue to evaluate product inventory in storage tanks at our facilities and others along our system and are working with our shippers to move this product to terminals for local delivery. Actions taken by the Federal Government to issue a temporary hours of service exemption for motor carriers and drivers transporting refined products across Colonial’s footprint should help alleviate local supply disruptions and we thank our government partners for their assistance in resolving this matter.
Our primary focus continues to be the safe and efficient restoration of service to our pipeline system, while minimizing disruption to our customers and all those who rely on Colonial Pipeline. We appreciate the patience of the traveling public and the support we have received from the Federal Government and our peers throughout the industry.
The FBI confirms that the Darkside ransomware is responsible for the compromise of the Colonial Pipeline networks. We continue to work with the company and our government partners on the investigation.
REGIONAL EMERGENCY DECLARATION UNDER 49 CFR § 390.23 No. 2021-002
ALABAMA, ARKANSAS, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, DELAWARE, FLORIDA, GEORGIA, KENTUCKY, LOUISIANA, MARYLAND, MISSISSIPPI, NEW JERSEY, NEW YORK, NORTH CAROLINA, PENNSYLVANIA, SOUTH CAROLINA, TENNESSEE, TEXAS, AND VIRGINIA
In accordance with the provisions of 49 CFR § 390.23, the Regional Field Administrators for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Eastern, Southern, and Western Service Centers hereby declares that an emergency exists that warrants issuance of a Regional Emergency Declaration and an exemption from Parts 390 through 399 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety (FMCSRs), except as otherwise restricted in this Emergency Declaration. Such emergency is in response to the unanticipated shutdown of the Colonial pipeline system due to network issues that affect the supply of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and other refined petroleum products throughout the Affected States. This Declaration addresses the emergency conditions creating a need for immediate transportation of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and other refined petroleum products and provides necessary relief. Affected States and jurisdictions included in this Emergency Declaration (“Affected States”) are: Alabama, Arkansas, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
By execution of this Emergency Declaration, motor carriers and drivers providing direct assistance to the emergency in the Affected States in direct support of relief efforts related to the shortages of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and other refined petroleum products due to the shutdown, partial shutdown, and/or manual operation of the Colonial pipeline system are granted relief from Parts 390 through 399 of Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations except as restricted herein.
This Emergency Declaration provides for regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operations while providing direct assistance supporting emergency relief efforts transporting gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and other refined petroleum products into the Affected States during the emergency from shortages due to the shutdown, partial shutdown, and/or manual operation of the Colonial pipeline system. Direct assistance terminates when a driver or commercial motor vehicle is used in interstate commerce to transport cargo or provide services not in support of emergency relief efforts related to the shortages of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and other refined petroleum products due to the shutdown, partial shutdown, and/or manual operation of the Colonial pipeline system in the Affected States, or when the motor carrier dispatches a driver or commercial motor vehicle to another location to begin operations in commerce. (49 CFR § 390.23(b)). Upon termination of direct assistance to emergency relief efforts related to the shortages of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and other refined petroleum products due to the shutdown, partial shutdown and/or manual operation of the Colonial pipeline system in the Affected States, the motor carrier and driver are subject to the requirements of 49 CFR Parts 390 through 399, except that a driver may return empty to the motor carrier’s terminal or the driver’s normal work reporting location without complying with Parts 390 through 399. When a driver is moving from emergency relief efforts to normal operations a 10-hour break is required when the total time a driver operates conducting emergency relief efforts, or a combination of emergency relief and normal operation, equals 14 hours.
All other applicable safety requirements remain in place and will be enforced by the FMCSA. Specifically, nothing contained in this Emergency Declaration shall be construed as an exemption from the controlled substances and alcohol use and testing requirements (49 CFR Part 382), the commercial driver’s license requirements (49 CFR Part 383), the financial responsibility (insurance) requirements (49 CFR Part 387), the hazardous material regulations (49 CFR Parts 100-180), applicable size and weight requirements, or any other portion of the regulations not specifically authorized pursuant to 49 CFR § 390.23.
Motor carriers or drivers currently subject to an out-of-service order are not eligible for the relief granted by this declaration until they have met the applicable conditions for its rescission and the order has been rescinded by FMCSA.
In accordance with 49 CFR § 390.23, this declaration is effective immediately and shall remain in effect until the end of the emergency (as defined in 49 CFR § 390.5) or until 11:59 P.M. (ET), June 8, 2021, whichever is earlier. FMCSA intends to continually review the status of this Emergency Declaration and may take action to modify or terminate the Emergency Declaration sooner if conditions warrant.
Taft Kelly, Regional Field Administrator Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Eastern Service Center
Darrell L. Ruban, Regional Field Administrator Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Southern Service Center
Scott G. Hernandez, Regional Field Administrator Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Western Service Center
Related MidJersey.news coverage on Colonial Pipeline incident here:
On May 7, 2021 Colonial Pipeline Company learned it was the victim of a cybersecurity attack and has since determined that the incident involved ransomware. Quickly after learning of the attack, Colonial proactively took certain systems offline to contain the threat. These actions temporarily halted all pipeline operations and affected some of our IT systems, which we are actively in the process of restoring.
Leading, third-party cybersecurity experts were also immediately engaged after discovering the issue and launched an investigation into the nature and scope of this incident. We have remained in contact with law enforcement and other federal agencies, including the Department of Energy who is leading the Federal Government response.
Maintaining the operational security of our pipeline, in addition to safely bringing our systems back online, remain our highest priorities. Over the past 48 hours, Colonial Pipeline personnel have taken additional precautionary measures to help further monitor and protect the safety and security of its pipeline.
The Colonial Pipeline operations team is developing a system restart plan. While our mainlines (Lines 1, 2, 3 and 4) remain offline, some smaller lateral lines between terminals and delivery points are now operational. We are in the process of restoring service to other laterals and will bring our full system back online only when we believe it is safe to do so, and in full compliance with the approval of all federal regulations.
At this time, our primary focus continues to be the safe and efficient restoration of service to our pipeline system, while minimizing disruption to our customers and all those who rely on Colonial Pipeline. We appreciate the patience and outpouring of support we have received from others throughout the industry.
Related MidJersey.news coverage on Colonial Pipeline incident here: