NJ politicians, environmentalists oppose seismic testing for offshore oil

Environmental advocates joined Congressman Frank Pallone on Asbury Park’s boardwalk to denounce President Donald Trump’s approval of five incidental harassment authorization permits, which allow companies to use seismic air guns to search for offshore oil and natural gas in the Atlantic.

“It’s like being stuck in an underwater fireworks display for days at end, with no end in sight, creating havoc in our coastal environment,” said NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel.

It’s a process, they say, that can disturb, harm and potentially kill marine life.

“I don’t want to draw any conclusions, but it was very suspicious that the last time we had seismic testing off the coast of New Jersey was the Rutgers geological study that was done. And that was a fraction, a mere fraction, of the size of what what we’re talking about. And within days of that happening, four whales were found dead in our region — within days of one another — and that was just directly after that seismic blasting,” said Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action.

Zipf says while seismic testing will not take place directly off New Jersey, it will affect communities along the Jersey coast.

“In the impact zone, you’re going to have the most devastation. But further away, even, there will be harm; marine life won’t know what’s going on, mothers have been known to leave their calves because they’re in a frenzy, they don’t know what’s happening,” Zipf said. “Fish get completely confused, too. They hear this sound and they scatter because they don’t know if it’s a predator or not, so it disrupts the whole ecosystem for tens of thousands of miles away.”

The concern is that seismic testing opens a door for offshore drilling in the Atlantic and along New Jersey’s coast.

“I think we have to expect that there’s a real good possibility that the seismic testing will be approved in the next week or two, and that the revisions to the five year plan that would include drilling might take effect, also, in the next few weeks,” Pallone said.

Environmental advocates say spills are virtually inevitable when drilling for offshore oil, raising environmental and economic concerns for the state.

“The state depends on the livelihood of all these people and the taxes they pay, and the taxes that we pay on the food you eat and the taxes you pay to eat it. That is a trickle out effect that could never be recouped if we have a spill anywhere on this coast,” said Marilyn Schlossbach, a member of the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association.

The effort to stop seismic testing and offshore drilling is a bipartisan one. Currently, Republican Rep. Chris Smith has signed on to a letter with 53 other congressman to deny a final permit for companies to conduct seismic testing in the Atlantic. There’s no word on when a final decision to start the testing will be made.