U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez came to Montclair State’s Center for Environmental and Life Sciences (CELS) to discuss their new legislation and talk about the planet on Earth Day. Sens. Booker and Menendez were joined by several environmental experts as they detailed the harmful effects of seismic blasting into the ocean.
Sens. Booker and Menendez announced today that they are sponsoring the Atlantic Seismic Airgun Protection (ASAP) Act. The bill would prohibit oil and fossil fuel companies from engaging in seismic blast testing in the Atlantic Ocean.
Seismic airguns are sometimes used to locate deposits of oil and gas in the ocean, but the sound of the blast is loud enough to disrupt and kill marine life.
“It’s a bill that will prohibit fossil fuel-related seismic testing and take another important step forward in protecting our oceans for generations to come,” said Sen. Booker. “We have an urgent threat now. We have a crisis right now. The good news is that we have the ability to deal with this crisis – all of us.”
Sidney Zipf, the executive director of Clean Ocean Action, was also present at the press conference and said, “We know how harmful loud noise is for humans. It’s stressful. It can cause physical and psychological harm. Marine life is far more sensitive to sound than we are. The sound blasts proposed to find that oil and gas can be heard a thousand miles away. Millions of marine animals will be stressed, harmed.”
Dr. Paul Bologna, the director of Montclair State’s marine biology and coastal sciences program, expanded on the impacts of seismic testing. Bologna said, “This concept of this seismic testing can absolutely be strongly negative in terms of instructions for marine animals that use sound for feeding, communication and navigation.” Bologna later explained that seismic testing and drilling can drastically change the oceans.
The CELS building was packed with people eager to hear Sens. Booker and Menendez speak about the environment on Earth Day. Those who couldn’t claim a seat watched the two senators speak from the staircase in the back of the room.
Christopher Lynch, sophomore jurisprudence major, said, “[Earth Day] is very important for everyone. We all have a moral responsibility to protect the environment. It’s the only one we have. It’s time that we start paying more attention to the environment and do what we can.”
Sen. Menendez harped on the importance of protecting the planet as well. “The fact is that we have a responsibility to be good stewards of our environment, and allowing seismic testing in the Atlantic is an abdication of that responsibility,” he said.
“I believe that Senator Booker and my job is to ensure that future generations of New Jerseyans can ensure the birthright of going to the Jersey shore,” Sen. Menendez said. “We will continue to stand up for the values of New Jerseyans over the profit of the big oil industry.”
Sens. Booker and Menendez were joined by Bologna, Zipf, Sharon Franz, chairman of the New Jersey Tourism Industry Association Board of Directors and Jeff Tittel, the director of Sierra Club’s New Jersey chapter.
Dena Restaino, a doctoral student in environmental management program, said, “It’s really important that they chose Montclair [State] as their venue. It brings attention to the new science building that we built, and especially the programs and the actions that Montclair is taking to reduce their impact on the environment.”
Sens. Booker and Menendez’s bill has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee, where chairman Sen. Lisa Murkowski will determine whether the bill moves past the committee stage. After that, the bill has to pass in the Senate and House of Representatives, and then be signed by President Barack Obama before it becomes law.
“We need to start waking folks up,” Sen. Booker said. “The last time I checked, we all need to breathe clean air. We need this planet to survive.”