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Court Rules Seismic Blasting off Ocean County Can Move Forward

Research vessel positioned off the Ocean County coast

R/V Marcus G. Langseth (Photo Credit: Office of Marine Operations, LDEO)
R/V Marcus G. Langseth (Photo Credit: Office of Marine Operations, LDEO)
A federal court on Tuesday ruled seismic blasting in the ocean off the New Jersey coast can begin.

The administration of Gov. Chris Christie had filed suit to block the seismic blast testing in waters off the coast of Ocean County on July 3, but on Tuesday a judge ruled in favor of Rutgers University, the University of Texas, and the National Science Foundation, the institutions conducting the testing with the stated goal of obtaining research data on climate change.

The state's commercial fishing industry, boating industry and environmentalists all strongly came out against the seismic blast testing, which will involve 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.

Fishermen have said they fear the constant high-volume sound from the blasting could destroy fishing habitat and drive away both finfish and shellfish, while environmentalists have railed against federal permits being issued that allow for the harassment and death of marine mammals, including whales, dolphins and turtles that are present in New Jersey waters during the summer months. Environmental groups and elected officials have also raised concerns that public data derived from the testing could be used by oil companies to justify a renewed effort to drill off the Jersey Shore.

"We are very disappointed in the court’s ruling today," said Jeff Tittel, president of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club. "We believe the seismic test will cause harm to marine life and impact our fisheries. We are also concerned that the information gathered could be used by the oil companies to pressure the Department of Interior for more complete seismic test with the potential of opening up our coast for drilling."

The 25 species that will be allowed to be harassed under the permits granted for the testing include six endangered whale species, Tittel said. The testing will also include the use of a multibeam echosounder, he said, which has been implicated in a whale stranding in Madagascar.

"This is an unfortunate development," said Cindy Zipf, president of Clean Ocean Action. "Rutgers is now free to blast away, putting marine life and fishermen’s livelihoods at risk. We will most definitely be on the lookout in the coming weeks for strange behavior and/or the death of marine life off our coast. And we hope the legal fight is not over."

The state's legal options include filing an emergent appeal with the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals, and the state Department of Environmental Protection – possibly – could seek a second temporary injunction in U.S. district court. There was no word on whether or not the DEP’s request was granted for a hearing on relief that would stop the blasting during the litigation.

State officials have yet to comment on Tuesday's ruling.

The court has not yet public released its opinion, but Clean Ocean Action told Patch that the court based its ruling on the public process pertaining to an environmental impact statement prepared years ago for marine seismic research around the globe – not a study specific to New Jersey or its coastal waters and marine life.

The boat that will be conducting the blasting, the Marcus G. Langseth, a 214-foot research vessel, was positioned several miles off the coast of Long Beach Island at about 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Lawrence Ragonese, a DEP spokesman, said he had not been told that the boat was actively conducting the seismic blasts.

The blasting is set to be conducted over 230 square miles of ocean floor off Ocean County.
Rock.n.Roll July 09, 2014 at 09:27 PM
Yes the most corrupt and the most in real estate taxes so the corrupt can live high on the hog off our tax money. New Jersey sucks when it comes to money management, they self serve, take care of themselves and screw the tax payer. At least Christie talks about trying to get right, and have less taxes, but the liberal front just wants to keep spending! Why anyone would support aid to illegal people in this state is deplorable and wrong. Help the citizens of this state, not the illegals...just shows how low liberals stoop to get a vote..
Frank July 09, 2014 at 10:19 PM
Raptor: Do you even know what your talking about? You have no idea what 250 decimals will do. I have dealt with underwater demolition in a capacity using plastic caps to remove props from naval ships. These caps are used around the shaft to move the prop back 1" at a time, this is done underwater at 30-40ft depending on what size vessel, the decimals measured at 1ft below the surface is 145 decimals enough to blow your ear drums out. The impact on your body feels like a sledge hammer hit you and we are at the surface when detonation occurs. If you are 10ft under, your dead. The deeper you go, the greater the impulse waves get, fire a small range missile into the Ocean and see how much water is moved when detonation occurs, you have to witness to understand. The ocean floor is fragile made up of many layers of sand, shale and rock 11,000 ft is definitely getting into the shelf or vault area of the floor, 250 decimals don't sound like a lot, but doing it repeatedly every 5 minutes 24 hours a day. Is like taking a rubber mallet and hitting someone in the head every 5 minutes, you may not die at first but eventually brain injury will happen and death will occur. Noise and vibrations travel underwater faster then on land.
Chris July 09, 2014 at 10:36 PM
Frank and all... Raptor is messing with everyone just to create some buzz. If he loves high surf so much he should have been out there when Sandy came ashore....at least there would have been one positive Sandy impact that we would have all agreed on.
anonymous July 09, 2014 at 10:41 PM
I believe rutgers university are the ones behind this and that who we need to fight . What the hell are they going to find out with this anyway??????? Frank thank you for your service I was in as well and know a thing or two about this subject and it is not a good idea..

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