FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—July 20, 2015
Media Contact: Sandra Steingraber | 607.351.0719
Thirteen Finger Lakes Residents Arrested in Civil Disobedience Blockade at Crestwood
Catholic Workers Carry Seven-foot Replica of Pope Francis’ Encyclical on Climate Change as Number of Total Arrests Hits 309
Watkins Glen, NY – In an act of civil disobedience against gas storage in Seneca Lake salt caverns, 13 Finger Lakes residents, led by local members of the Ithaca Catholic Worker Movement, formed a human blockade shortly after sunrise this morning at the north entrance of Crestwood Midstream on Route 14.
Carrying with them a seven-foot-tall replica of Pope Francis’ recent encyclical letter on climate change, Laudato Si! On Care for Our Common Home, they blocked all traffic from entering or leaving.
Schuyler County deputies arrested the 13 shortly after 9:30 a.m. as they sang and read from the Ponitical document. Their recitation continued the read-aloud from the encyclical that began on June 30, as part of earlier blockade that led to the arrests of 19 individuals, and which continued on July 7, as part of an all-day blockade of 11 individuals that resulted in no arrests.
Immediately after their arrest, a large tanker truck labeled “TRADEBE—Emergency Response” sped through the gates. According to the Tradebe website,”TRADEBE’s Emergency Response Team is trained, equipped and ready to respond to Hazmat, Oil Spills and other Emergencies.”
As before, the protesters were taken into custody, charged with trespassing and released.
Today’s blockaders held banners that said, “Catholic Workers Against Crestwood,” “Caring for Our Common Home,” which references the title of the Pope’s letter.
The Catholic Worker Movement was founded by journalist Dorothy Day and social activist Peter Maurin in 1933. Its purpose is to “live in accordance with the justice and charity of Jesus Christ.”
Delivering a statement on behalf of the Ithaca Catholic Worker Movement, blockader Ellen Grady said, “Today members of the Ithaca Catholic Worker join the Seneca Lake Defenders in their effort to resist the desecration of this beautiful Finger Lakes region. We bring with us a seven and a half foot tall replica of Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si! On Care For Our Common Home, to the gates of Crestwood Gas Storage facility….Creation is a gift from God. It is our duty to care for it and not misuse it.” [Grady’s complete statement is below.]
Barbara Smith, 61, a Catholic Worker, mother of nine children, and dairy farmer from the Town of Lodi in Seneca County, said, “No one has the right to risk damaging this lake in any way for the short term gain of one company. Seneca Lake is only on loan to us but belongs ultimately to God, and we have been charged to protect it for the common good of future generations.”
The total number of arrests in the nine-month-old civil disobedience campaign now stands at 309.
None of the protesters this morning had been previously arrested as part of the We Are Seneca Lake movement, which opposes Crestwood’s plans for methane and LPG storage in lakeside salt caverns and which has been ongoing since October 2014.
Crestwood’s methane gas storage expansion project was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last October in the face of broad public opposition and unresolved questions about geological instabilities, fault lines, and possible salinization of Seneca Lake, which serves as a source of drinking water for 100,000 people.
The 13 arrested today were:
Daniel Burns, 55, Ithaca Tompkins County
Rebecca Elgie, 74, Ithaca, Tompkins County
Linda Finlay, 76, Ithaca, Tompkins County
Neil Golder, 69, Ithaca, Tompkins County
Clare Grady, 56, Ithaca, Tompkins County
Ellen Grady, 52, Ithaca, Tompkins County
Joan Jedele, 67, Dryden, Tompkins County
JoAnn Kuentz, 64, Elmira, Chemung County
Arlene Leach-Bizari, 46, Rochester, Monroe County
James Ricks, Ithaca, 65, Ithaca, Tompkins County
Rebecca Schillenback, 40, Caroline, Tompkins County
Barbara Schlierf, 60, Henrietta, Monroe County
Barbara Smith, 61, Lodi, Seneca County
Read more about the protesters at: http://www.wearesenecalake.com/seneca-lake-defendes/.
Read more about widespread objections to Crestwood’s gas storage plans: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/26/nyregion/new-york-winemakers-fight-gas-storage-plan-near-seneca-lake.html?_r=0.
Read Gannett’s investigative report about the risks and dangers of LPG gas storage: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/local/watchdog/2015/06/26/seneca-gas-storage-debated/29272421/.
Ellen Grady’s complete statement on behalf of Ithaca Catholic Worker Movement:
Today members of the Ithaca Catholic Worker Movement join the Seneca Lake Defenders in their effort to resist the desecration of this beautiful Finger Lakes region.
We bring with us a seven and a half foot tall replica of Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si! On Care For Our Common Home, to the gates of Crestwood Gas Storage facility.
Our tradition is to do the works and mercy and oppose the works of war. The works of mercy include not just feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, ransoming the captives, but also healing and nurturing and protecting the earth which has become captive to an ideology of domination for the sake of profit and short-term goals divorced from their natural and social context.
As Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, taught, compassion for all creation is a necessary part of our faith.
We are heartened by Pope Francis’ encyclical, and we share these thoughts from his teaching:
- Creation is a gift from God. It is our duty to care for it and not misuse it.
- This gift, a shared inheritance, is fragile and at risk from our own recklessness.
- The world is a web of relationships sustained by our Creator. Everything is connected.
- Technology and the economy cannot be divorced from their larger context which must include the common good.
- Lack of concern for the environment is lack of concern for the poor who are already suffering from climate change and will suffer the most as it worsens.
- War is a major part of the destruction of creation. We must oppose the works of war.
- We must all undergo an ecological conversion for the sake of the poor, for future generations, and for our spiritual health. New habits and new lifestyles are required.
- Let’s not wait to act until after the harm is done. We cannot be indifferent. A change of heart is required.
Crestwood’s plans for gas storage at Seneca Lake are a classic example of the false promises of technology (“safe” transport and “safe” storage) and narrow economic analysis which ignores the common good and beauty of this region’s people, lands, waters, creatures. We act today to resist a destructive proposal and to affirm and celebrate and praise the glory and integrity of God’s creation.
Background on the protests:
Protesters have been blocking the Crestwood gas storage facility gates since Thursday, October 23rd, including a rally with more than 200 people on Friday, October 24th. On Wednesday, October 29, Crestwood called the police and the first 10 protesters were arrested. More information and pictures of the actions are available at www.WeAreSenecaLake.com.
The unified We Are Seneca Lake protests started on October 23rd because Friday, October 24th marked the day that major new construction on the gas storage facility was authorized to begin. The ongoing acts of civil disobedience come after the community pursued every possible avenue to stop the project and after being thwarted by an unacceptable process and denial of science. The protests are taking place at the gates of the Crestwood compressor station site on the shore of Seneca Lake, the largest of New York’s Finger Lakes.
The methane gas storage expansion project is advancing in the face of broad public opposition and unresolved questions about geological instabilities, fault lines, and possible salinization of the lake, which serves as a source of drinking water for 100,000 people. Crestwood has indicated that it intends to make Seneca Lake the gas storage and transportation hub for the northeast, as part of the gas industry’s planned expansion of infrastructure across the region.
*Note that the WE ARE SENECA LAKE protest is to stop the expansion of methane gas storage, a separate project from Crestwood’s proposed Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) storage project, which is on hold pending a Department of Environmental Conservation Issues Conference on February 12th.
As they have for a long time, the protesters are continuing to call on President Obama, U.S. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, Governor Cuomo, and Congressman Reed to intervene on behalf of the community and halt the dangerous project. In spite of overwhelming opposition, grave geological and public health concerns, Crestwood has federal approval to move forward with plans to store highly pressurized, explosive gas in abandoned salt caverns on the west side of Seneca Lake. While the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has temporarily halted plans to stockpile propane and butane (LPG) in nearby caverns—out of ongoing concerns for safety, health, and the environment—Crestwood is actively constructing infrastructure for the storage of two billion cubic feet of methane (natural gas), with the blessing of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
More background, including about the broad extent of the opposition from hundreds of wineries and more than a dozen local municipalities, is available on the We Are Seneca Lake website at http://www.wearesenecalake.com/press-kit/.
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