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Court Denies State Injunction, Seismic Testing Off Jersey Shore to Move Forward

Court Decision Allows Controversial Rutgers-led Study Off Jersey Shore to Proceed
Clarkson S. Fisher Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Trenton, N.J. The West Virginia Record

TRENTON, NJ - U.S Federal Judge Peter Sheridan handed down a ruling denying the Christie administration an injunction that would have halted a seismic testing study that would take place off the Jersey shore.

The ruling came on Tuesday, in the U.S District Court in Trenton, where the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) argued on that the Rutgers-led study could have a negative environmental impact. The Christie administration had filed for the federal injunction only last Thursday, July 3rd. 

The study, which will be lead by Rutgers University, the National Science Foundation, University of Texas, and Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, would use air guns and seismic testing to map out layers of sediment from as far back as sixty million years. 

Reseach would take place between 15 to 50 miles off Barnetget Island by Long Beach Island. 

The DEP made the point that under the Coastal Zone Management Act the federal government would be able to to halt the study. Under the Coastal Zone Management Act, state and federal governments are encouraged and able to protect, develop, and where possible, restore or enhance valuable natural coastal resources, which the area impacted by the study would include. 

Proponents of the study, such as Rutgers Geology Professor Greg Mountain, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, argued that the reserach would not disrupt or harm sea life living in the area. The DEP, in addition to Clean Ocean Action, argued during the hearing that air guns used in the study could potentially harm whales and other sea life.

The Federal Judge stated that he would not grant a thirty day halt to allow the state government to review it, though he did in turn suspend the study for one day. 

Interestingly, in an odd turn of events, the federal government sided with the Rutgers University flagship campus, while the state government in turn sided with the environmental groups opposed to it. 

DEP Commissioner Bob Martin stated in a press released that the Department of Environmental Protection would activley oppose the study. The sentiment of the DEP was shared with many environmental, tourist and fishing industry groups that operated near the Jersey shore. 

After the court decision, DEP and Clean Ocean Action officials voiced their anger with the ruling. The DEP has stated that the option was still on the table to appeal the court case at U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.

“This is an unfortunate development. 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.” Clean Ocean Action Executive Director Cindy Zipf lamented after learning of the court's decision.