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New Jersey Will Sue Feds Over Seismic Ocean Blasting

Opponents: testing off Jersey Shore could harm species, ruin fishing grounds, lead to oil drilling; rally held in Barnegat Light

A rally, held July 2, 2014, in Barnegat Light, N.J. against seismic ocean blasting off the New Jersey coast. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
A rally, held July 2, 2014, in Barnegat Light, N.J. against seismic ocean blasting off the New Jersey coast. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
As hundreds rallied against seismic blasting that is set to begin in the ocean off New Jersey later this month, officials with the state Department of Environmental Protection say they will sue the federal government to stop the blasting before it can start.

The state will seek an injunction against the federal government agencies that permitted the blasting and the allowance to kill or harass species in the process, including whales, dolphins and turtles.

The blasting is set to be conducted over 230 square miles of ocean floor off Ocean County, N.J. for a period of 30 days as part of a research study being conducted by Rutgers University and the University of Texas. The project will include air gun blasts 11,500 feet underground that will reach sounds of 250 or more decibels and occur every five seconds, 24 hours a day, for a month.
 
The universities say the project will help map climate change over the last 60 million years and augment core samples taken from the ocean floor in 2009. But environmentalists and a host of fishing, boating and tourism industry groups have said the blasts will disrupt wildlife and kill fishing prospects off the New Jersey coast, which is home to multi-million dollar fisheries such as scallops and flounder. Some fear the blasts could also affect squid, the food source for most of the finfish in the ocean off the Jersey Shore, leading to a crippling of the state's recreational and commercial fishing and boating industries.

Environmental advocates have also raised concerns that the testing could produce data that could be used by oil companies to justify drilling off the east coast of the United States.

"We’ve been involved in trying to stop what I call pre-drilling activities, the things that lead to oil and gas drilling, for a long time," said U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6) at a previous rally against the testing. "Once you start down that path, it’s like a domino effect."

U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-2) said Wednesday he brokered talks between state officials and local stakeholders – who are squarely against the blasting – and officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration but the federal agency had no interest in delaying the tests beyond July after relenting on an initial June 3 start date.

"It was pretty clear, in my mind, that what they had in mind was to give a little minor delay to say they were listening, but no intention of giving us the delay or stopping it the way we wanted," LoBiondo said.

State officials are now hopeful that a federal court will issue an injunction Thursday stopping the testing until the National Science Foundation – which signed off on the project – holds a 30 day comment period and deeper environmental and economic impact studies are conducted by other federal agencies.

"We believe the timing of this program will be detrimental to various marine species that migrate and breed off the New Jersey coast and will negatively impact the commercial fishing industry that relies heavily on these resources," said Bob Martin, New Jersey DEP commissioner, in an e-mail to environmental group Clean Ocean Action that was obtained by Patch.

The rally on Wednesday night that took place in Barnegat Light, just blocks away from one of the state's largest commercial fishing ports, drew hundreds of local residents and officials, many of whom signed petitions against the testing.

Commercial fishermen have said similar seismic testing in Australia wiped out scallop beds and displaced other species. Environmentalists have expressed deep concern over how the sound from the blasting will affect marine mammals, including threatened whale species that migrate off the New Jersey coast. In recent weeks, whale sightings have been common along the Jersey Shore and the state's dolphin population is recovering from an illness that wiped out hundreds last year.

"Right now, bottlenose dolphins are mating and giving birth off the coast of New Jersey," said Bob Schoelkopf of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine. "May and June are the birthing periods."

"They are totally dependent on their parents to provide nursing for the first two to four years of their life, and if the mother, for some reason, cannot catch fish to eat, she can't produce milk," Schoelkopf explained.

LoBiondo, calling the decision to blast off the Jersey Shore "dumb, insensitive and wrong," said he would continue to lead the charge against the study and, at the very least, have it moved to the winter months when migratory species are elsewhere.

"I have seen some really dumb, stupid things happen out of Washington, but this ranks at the top," he said. "And they can't even explain why they can't wait until February."
Don't hope I'm right...I hope I'm wrong. This was not addressed when it could have been. If Frank Pallone raises an environmental issue, (and this is in NO WAY a dis to Frank), it's really only "white noise" to the establishment, because he truly IS an environmental advocate. I've known him for decades - my brother, even longer. When LoBiondo jumped on his coat-tails for show, that should have at least brought some notice, but NO OTHER SITTING CONGRESSMAN and NEITHER BOOKER NOR MENENDEZ blinked an eye over this, or took any action. They failed. The environmental groups don't have the "bully pulpit". YOU NEED an advocate that will make some noise about this BEFORE it becomes a forgone conclusion.
The remedies left at this point are nearly nil. I can't "foment" civil disobedience, but, as an observation....
I may be coming to the Board Meeting in Lacey, tomorrow night...afterward, my wife and I will likely walk the inlet at Barnegat Light. Look for the fat guy with the cute girl.
(helping with the Solar investigation and Lacey Recall)
Rock.n.Roll July 09, 2014 at 10:10 AM
Go getem and speak, everyone needs to do what you are doing, then we will be heard.

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