Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) called for renewed efforts to stop the seismic airgun testing that is set to begin off the coast of New Jersey. He expressed support for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's (NJDEP) decision to seek legal recourse in order to stop the blasting. This comes in response to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) approval this week of the Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) for seismic airgun testing in the Atlantic Ocean conducted by Rutgers University and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.
Pallone had requested that NOAA deny the permit for this work and met with Rutgers President Robert Barchi and other school leadership officials to demand they put a stop to the ocean blasting project. He is also concerned that Rutgers researchers have apparently conducted seismic work in this area in the past and is looking into whether they obtained the proper permits to conduct the prior seismic testing.
This June, Pallone sent a letter to the Department of Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) objecting to the seismic testing proposal. Since the proposed project area is located within the Outer Continental Shelf, it is subject to the jurisdictions of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA). Pallone highlighted the fact that the proposed activity is a seismic geophysical survey, which is a type of activity--an exploration--regulated by OCSLA. He called on BOEM to require that the applicants comply with regulatory prohibitions, which do not allow proposed activities that would harm marine mammals, fish and other aquatic life.
State officials are now seeking an injunction against NOAA, which authorized the blasting, in order to halt the start of the project until the agency holds a 30-day comment period and deeper environmental and economic impact studies are conducted by other federal agencies. Pallone spoke with NJDEP officials today, pledging his full support with regard to their ongoing efforts.
Originally, NJDEP had submitted comments to NOAA, asserting its right to review the project due to potential threats it posed to coastal resources and the state's economy. Under the Coastal Zone Management Act, the study could be stopped if NJDEP's review found that the seismic survey could potentially have harmful impacts on state resources. NOAA denied NJDEP's request this week, arguing that the request was not submitted in a timely manner, an assertion that seems to be unfounded since NJDEP contacted NOAA on numerous occasions throughout the evaluation process.
"This action by NOAA is absolutely unacceptable and cannot be allowed to go unchecked," said Congressman Pallone. "The fact that they are using a phony technicality to move forward with harmful seismic blasting in the Atlantic Ocean, which is extremely hazardous to marine life, is inexcusable. I have pledged my full support to NJDEP as they seek legal recourse to alter this destructive decision. The New Jersey coastal economy is still rebounding from the effects of Superstorm Sandy. This seismic blasting puts our coastline at further risk and we cannot allow it move forward."
Pallone has repeatedly stated that seismic surveying can injure or kill fish and marine mammals and puts at risk endangered species, such as the North Atlantic right whale. He has also consistently raised concerns that the seismic surveying results could be used in the pursuit of opening up areas off New Jersey's coast for oil and gas exploration.