Politicians and environmentalists are pushing aside partisan differences in order to protect New Jersey’s beaches and its $44 billion tourism economy.
On Monday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service opened public comment on proposed seismic air testing in the Atlantic Ocean to support offshore drilling.
U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd, took to Facebook to assure his constituents he will continue to fight seismic testing off New Jersey, including through a bill he introduced in April to ban permits for seismic activity in the Atlantic Ocean.
“I remain strongly opposed to any effort to allow permits for seismic airgun testing and will work with South Jersey residents, recreational and commercial fishermen, and environmentalist to ensure this harmful practice does not occur along the Jersey Shore,” LoBiondo wrote Monday.
Seismic testing is the process of blasting air into the ocean floor, with sounds as loud as dynamite, every 10 seconds for an extended period. It is used to find oil and gas deposits. Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said the blasts can lead to mass strandings and possibly death of marine mammals.
The Marine Fisheries Service action comes more than a month after President Donald Trump signed an executive order reversing a policy of President Barack Obama’s administration banning seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean.
The Fisheries Service said it has received five applications from companies related to the gas and oil drilling industry to conduct geophysical surveying in federal waters from just south of Cape May to central Florida. The permits would allow the companies to incidentally, but not intentionally, harass marine mammals. The comment period lasts through July 7.
Tittel said seismic testing is not only harmful to marine life, but offshore drilling could have a serious negative impact on New Jersey’s tourism economy due to pollution and the threat of an oil spill. He said offshore drilling will lead to more pipelines and air pollution from refineries.
“It’s Donald Trump to New Jersey: Drop dead,” Tittel said.
New Jersey’s Democratic legislators are also trying to stop drilling. In April, U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Robert Menendez, and Rep. Frank Pallone, D-6th, announced the reintroduction of the Clean Ocean and Safe Tourism (COAST) Anti-Drilling Act to ban offshore oil and gas drilling in response to Trump’s executive order.
State Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Bob Considine said that while the permits proposed are not currently off the coast of New Jersey, the state would have the same concerns it did two years ago when it opposed seismic testing conducted by Rutgers University to study sea-level change.
At the time, DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said the testing would have “a detrimental effect on New Jersey’s fisheries and marine mammals” and that the state “must take no chances when it comes to protecting our ocean resources, our commercial and recreational fishing industries, and our state’s $42 billion tourism economy, which depends heavily on the shore.”