New Jersey appeals on ocean blasting plan

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New Jersey asked a federal appeals court Thursday to block a seismic research plan involving blasting the ocean floor with loud sound waves.

The state Department of Environmental Protection asked the 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals for an injunction to block the research, which is strenuously opposed by environmental, fishing and other groups. They say the loud noise could harm or kill marine life including turtles, dolphins and whales.

A federal judge denied New Jersey's request to block the research earlier this week.

The court did not issue a ruling Thursday and gave no indication as to when it might do so.

A federal government lawyer said there won't be any long-term harm to sea life because of the study.

Rutgers University, the University of Texas and the National Science Foundation want to do research on sediments deposited on the ocean floor by changing global sea levels dating back 60 million years. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has signed off on the request.

The plan is to complete a three-dimensional map of part of the ocean floor that may offer clues as to what could happen as the ocean rises.

DEP officials have said they believe the seismic research can harm fish directly or disrupt migration patterns. In either case, they said, the state's fishing and tourism industries could suffer.

But in his ruling Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Peter Sheridan said the federal government made formal notifications in the last few months that it was considering various permits for the research — and that the state remained silent on them.

A U.S. government lawyer said the state had several chances over the last nine years to comment on the blasting plan but never took advantage of it.

Some environmental groups say the study could lay the groundwork for oil or natural gas drilling off New Jersey's coast, which is not currently allowed.

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Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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