Update July 25: More Seismic Ocean Blasting to Come This August and September, and Again Next Year
If Authorized, Takes of 19,497 Marine Mammals by Harassment Expected
“New Jersey’s marine life, fisheries and coastal economy can’t get a break,” said Cindy Zipf, Executive Director of Clean Ocean Action.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS), Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (L-DEO) of Columbia University, and the National Science Foundation propose to conduct a 2-D seismic vessel survey in the Atlantic Ocean off the Eastern Seaboard between August and September 2014 and April and August 2015 to identify the outer limits of the United States continental shelf and study potential tsunami-related hazards. The project includes the use of an array of 36 airguns. The airguns will blast the ocean at 236-265 decibels every 20 to 24 seconds, 24 hours a day for at least 17 days each year of the survey.
Read COA’s official comments about this proposed project.
Clean Ocean Action submitted comments Wednesday (see attached PDF) on the proposed Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service, which outlined several concerns about potential impacts to marine mammals:
• The proposed project threatens serious harm to numerous species of marine mammals and is therefore contrary to the goals, mandates, and prohibitions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
• A full environmental impact statement (EIS) should be completed prior to the consideration of the IHA, to remedy issues of incomplete information and inadequate assessment of impacts.
• There are insufficient evaluations of alternatives and mitigation measures.
• The Proposed Project should not be conducted during the spring and summer months, which are the peak of marine mammal (and other marine species) feeding, breeding, and/or calving activity off the mid-Atlantic.
• NMFS should ensure that best available science and regulatory review are incorporated into the EIS and IHA, require stronger mitigation measures, and consider different times of year for the Proposed Project.
“We shouldn’t repeat mistakes of the past,” said Cassandra Ornell, Clean Ocean Action’s Staff Scientist. “Back in 2002, a similar seismic expedition in the Gulf of California - also led by LDEO – resulted in beaked whale strandings, and a federal judge responded by ordering the ship to cease operations.”
The Marine Mammal Protection Act places a “moratorium on the taking” of marine mammals. Any authorization to take marine mammals must result in the incidental take of only “small numbers of marine mammals of a species or population stock,” and can have no more than a “negligible impact” on species and stocks.
Update July 18: Obama Administration’s Final Decision Declares Open Season on the Atlantic by Big Oil
Coalition Responds to Administration’s Hypocritical Ocean Policy--- Adds Insult to Injury off Jersey Shore
Today, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced its issuance of the Record of Decision for environmental review of geological and geophysical survey activities associated with oil and gas exploration off the Atlantic coast, which has been under a drilling moratorium for decades.
Upon hearing of this development, Cindy Zipf, Executive Director of Clean Ocean Action, stated, “The Obama Administration has officially declared open season on the Atlantic for Big Oil to exploit and threaten our coasts. This is clearly hypocritical; President Obama just declared June as ‘National Oceans Month,’ calling upon us to be good ocean stewards. Which side of the ocean is he on?”
Read COA’s Press Release on the proposed Incidental Harassment Authorization
Update: July 14, 2014
The brief reprieve marine life had from seismic blasting off the Jersey Shore appears to be over. On July 14, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals denied the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s request for a preliminary injunction that would have temporarily stopped the seismic survey being conducted off the coast of New Jersey. NJDEP filed the request last Thursday on an emergent basis, seeking to reverse the District Court’s denial of an injunction last Tuesday. The preliminary injunction would have remained in effect for the duration of the litigation and until the District Court ruled on the merits of NJDEP’s claims.
Upon learning of the Third Circuit’s decision today, Cindy Zipf, the Executive Director of Clean Ocean Action, stated, "This is a very disappointing decision for marine life and for those who depend on a clean and healthy ocean. It is upsetting that the blasting of our ocean be allowed to continue during the legal challenge. COA is confident that the State will eventually prevail in court because the State and its citizens were denied important opportunities to review the proposal. However, that decision will come too late to save a single creature from this project.”
Clean Ocean Action had filed an amicus brief with the Third Circuit last Thursday, urging the Court to grant the injunction in order to prevent any harm to marine life and to commercial and recreational users of the vast project area. COA stressed to the Court the public interest in this litigation.
The litigation will now return to the District Court where the federal court will ultimately decide if federal agencies violated the law in denying NJDEP’s request to conduct a federal consistency review of the project, and in denying the public an opportunity to review the final environmental assessment of the project by its primary funder, the National Science Foundation. But for now, the Rutgers-led survey—which will send seismic blasts into the ocean every 5 seconds, 24 hours a day, for the next 30 days, may now resume. That is, provided, the research vessel, the Marcus G. Langseth, proves to be seaworthy. Last Wednesday, the ship returned to port for “necessary repairs,” court papers revealed.
July 8, 2014: District Court Denies NJDEP Request for Temporary Injunction
Read COA's Press Release about the district court's decision on Tuesday, July 8.
This court action follows a rally two weeks ago where over 300 citizens, many organizations from across the state, Congressman Frank LoBiondo, commercial and recreational fishing leaders, scientists, divers, elected officials, marine mammal protectors — gathered at an emergency meeting in Barnegat Light. All expressed outrage that the National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Science Foundation signed permits and put hundreds of whales, dolphins, and thousands of other marine life at grave risk. The ship started out to their target waters before the final documents were made publicly available.
The fight is not over. And New Jersey has made that clear by taking them to court. We also have the support of the entire coastal congressional delegation, and both US Senators, many state legislators and local officials. Indeed, representatives from every town on LBI and surrounding communities attended the meeting.
A large coalition of groups organized the rally including: the Anglers Conservation Network; Berkeley Striper Club; Clean Ocean Action; CWA Local 1075; Captain Paul Eidman - Reel Therapy Fly and Light Tackle Charters; Mayor Kirk Larson - Barnegat Light; Jersey Coast Anglers Association; New Jersey Beach Buggy Association; New Jersey Council of Divers; New Jersey Outdoor Alliance; New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs; Point Pleasant Fishermen’s Dock Cooperative; Recreational Fishing Alliance; Save Barnegat Bay; Surfrider Foundation Mid-Atlantic Region; Captain Eddie Yates - United Boatmen of New Jersey; and Viking Village.
More groups and citizens are joining every day.
Read NJDEP's Press Release about their legal efforts to stop the survey.
View NJ's legal papers on the request to seek injunctive relief in federal court.
The purpose of the Rutgers led study is to generate 3-D images of 30-60 million year old sea floor sediments to gauge climate change. As core samples have already been taken in the same area, the value of the study is questionable against the impending environmental and economic impacts. Further, New Jersey understands sea level rise — Superstorm Sandy left no doubt.
Review Rutgers University's prepared summary of the study which misrepresents the timing's impacts to marine life and The National Science Foundation's award abstract that clearly states the study's results could have relevance to the fossil fuel industry.
Click here for links to some news accounts about the Rutgers ocean blasting.
The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development is issuing its second round of disaster relief funding to states hit hard by Superstorm Sandy, and New Jersey has been allocated $1.463 billion. Prior to disbursement of these funds, the State is required to update its action plan that details remaining unmet needs and how this round of funding will be used. Clean Ocean Action presented oral comments at two of the three public hearings held by the State to solicit input on the amended action plan, and yesterday sent a letter to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. Read more at COA's blog.
UPDATE 12/5/13: The New Jersey Senate Environment and Energy Committee unanimously passed a resolution opposing the proposed offshore facility Port Ambrose. The resolution was introduced by Senator Jennifer Beck (R-11) along with an identical resolution in the Assembly (AR205) introduced by Assemblyman Sean Kean (R-30) and is co-sponsored by Asw. Diane Gove (R-9), Asm. Brian Rumpf (R-9), and Asm. Ruben Ramos (D-33). The resolutions are supported by 25 organizations in New Jersey who signed on to a letter urging the legislature to adopt the resolution.
UPDATE 11/1/13: The US Coast Guard announced a 90-day hold on processing the proposed Liberty LNG Port Ambrose offshore deepwater liquefied natural gas facility due to a lack of critical important information, several major application deficiencies, and many unaddressed federal requirements. Read more here!
Governor Christie and Governor Cuomo can still veto this project. Call and tell our elected officials that you are against the Port Ambrose LNG project.
You can reach Governor Christie at (609) 292-6000 and Governor Cuomo at (518) 474-8390.