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New Jersey Appeals Judge's Ruling To Allow Ocean Sound Blasts Off Coast

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- New Jersey has urged a federal appeals court to block a seismic research plan involving blasting the ocean floor with loud sound waves.

The project is strenuously opposed by environmental, fishing and other groups who argue the loud noise could harm or kill marine life including turtles, dolphins and whales.

On Thursday, the state Department of Environmental Protection asked the 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals for an injunction to block the research.

The move comes after a federal judge denied New Jersey's request to block the research earlier this week.

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 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.

A federal government lawyer said the study would not cause any long-term harm to sea life.

DEP officials, however, 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 argued 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 said the study could lay the groundwork for oil or natural gas drilling off New Jersey's coast, which is not currently allowed.

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

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