CONVERSATION TOPIC: Do you support oil exploration off NJ's coastlines? Discuss below

Federal officials are moving ahead with a plan to look for oil and gas reserves in the Atlantic Ocean along the East coast - announcing they will conduct a preliminary offshore environmental impact study.

Cindy Zipf, the Executive Director of Clean Ocean Action is turning thumbs down on the idea.

She says the environmental testing is done to pave the way for seismic testing - where very loud sound waves pulsate through the ocean for hundreds of miles - and that could eventually lead to offshore oil drilling in the Atlantic Ocean up and down the East coast.

"They are excited and thrilled with the prospect of going ahead with the seismic exploration," she says, " the Atlantic Ocean is the last ocean realm in the United States that does not have harmful industrial activity going on in it- so this is really the last wild industry-free ocean in the United States,  and it's home to countless marine life - whales and fish, turtles and seals and a myriad of other marine life that we depend on for our livelihoods - and it's also home to the tourism industry that New Jersey and many other states benefit from."

Seismic Exploration Could Affect Marine Life

Zipf says it doesn't make sense to risk the possibility of a an oil spill in the waters along the coast because "the state of New Jersey in particular - we know - generates a huge amount of its economic income from tourism and along the Jersey shore… tourism in Jersey generates 38 billion dollars a year, so the idea that we're to threaten that livelihood and those industries with a polluting industry -  oil and gas development - is just unacceptable."

She points out "the impact of seismic exploration itself is going to have a negative impact on marine life, because these pulsating sounds - which are very loud and harmful to marine life - affect areas a half a mile wide and many miles long - and it reverberates through the ocean for hundreds of miles - it will affect the migratory patterns of marine mammals as well as fish off the Jersey shore -so this will impact the marine life that we depend on…our recreational and commercial fishermen depend on."

Zipf adds "this enthusiasm for offshore oil and gas development is happening on the heels of the worst environmental disaster certainly in the United States - caused by oil drilling…if there was a blow-out similar to the BP oil spill, all that oil would flow north and come riding right up the gulf-stream to the Jersey shore…it would sit in this area - stick around and get onto the shore and it would be devastating….  we have a clean ocean industry now in New Jersey that's one of the best in the United States- and that is all at risk by the development of offshore oil and gas development."

She says her organization is planning to take action in the weeks and months ahead - and raise public awareness about this threat.

A spokesman for the Jersey DEP says Governor Christie has made it very clear that he will protect New Jersey's shore economy and coastline by opposing off-shore drilling in New Jersey and off the coast of other states that could negatively impact New Jersey. In addition, he has opposed LNG (liquefied natural gas) facilities off the coastline, while actively pursuing renewable and green energy sources, including solar energy and offshore wind projects.