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Ocean Blasting Off Coast of New Jersey Will Proceed

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on July 18, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

New Jersey officials, as well as environmental activists, are challenging seismic studies from just 15 miles off Barnegat Light, reports The SandPaper. The parties requested a preliminary injunction, which the district court denied. Earlier this week, the Third Circuit also declined to grant the preliminary injunction.

Let's take a closer look at the legal -- and environmental issues -- at stake.

The Jersey Shore

No, not that Jersey Shore -- the actual coast of New Jersey -- 230 miles of ocean -- is the designated location for seismic testing, for a climate change study, conducted by the University of Texas at Austin and Rutgers University and funded by the National Science Foundation, reports The SandPaper. The testing "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," according to Point Pleasant Patch.

Fisherman, both commercial and recreational, as well as wildlife advocates have expressed concern about what the study will do to the existing ecosystem, and stated that the testing "could decimate fishing grounds and disrupt the migration of finfish and marine mammals, including endangered whale species," says the Patch.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection ("NJDEP") has sued the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association claiming that "federal agencies violated the law in denying NJDEP's request to conduct a federal consistency review of the project, and in denying the public an opportunity to review the final environmental assessment of the project," says Clean Ocean Action. NJDEP requested a preliminary injunction to halt the study during litigation, but on July 8, the district court denied the preliminary injunction.

Third Circuit Ruling

On Monday, the Third Circuit also denied the emergency request for a preliminary injunction, allowing the study to continue during the course of litigation. Executive Director of Clean Ocean Action stated, "This is a very disappointing decision for marine life and for those who depend on a clean and healthy ocean ... It is upsetting that the blasting of our ocean be allowed to continue during the legal challenge," reports The Associated Press.

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