Plan for seismic tests off N.J. coast stirs opposition

Some scientific testing planned off the Jersey coast by the National Science Foundation and three universities is facing opposition.

Part of study of climate change and rising sea level, the plan for 30 days of seismic tests beginning in June is intended to investigate ocean sediments.

But the testing, planned for about 15 miles off Barnegat Bay, could potentially be used to open the Atlantic Ocean to oil and gas exploration, said U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone.

“They claim that this is a scientific study, but the conclusions could be used to justify drilling off the coast of New Jersey,” he said.

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The tests also will harm ocean creatures and habitats, said environmental groups. Repeated sound blasts would be louder than a jet engine — an acoustic assault on ocean mammals and fish, said Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action.

“That’s going to have devastating consequences, and we know from the scientific research that it can include everything from death to sort of the harassment where they run away,” she said Wednesday.

Opponents say the seismic tests also would jeopardize key fish habitats and hurt commercial fishermen who are still trying to recover from Sandy.

Rutgers, Columbia and the University of Texas are participating in the study, which aims to investigate features such as river valleys cut into coastal plain sediments now buried under nearly 3,300 feet of younger sediment and flooded by today’s ocean.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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