About Crestwood


The company

Crestwood Midstream, is a diversified energy infrastructure and distribution company based in Houston, Texas. In 2013, Crestwood merged with Inergy LP and thus acquired the underground salt caverns located on Inergy’s US Salt 600-acre property on the west bank of Seneca Lake, two miles north of Watkins Glen. [1]

As a provider of storage and transportation for the products of fracking, Crestwood is deeply involved in shale gas and oil boom, with operations in Texas, in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale, and the Marcellus Shale. Crestwood operates five gas storage facilities that together hold 80 billion cubic feet of natural gas. According to its website, Crestwood Midstream, “connects energy supply in North America’s premier shale plays with energy demand.” [2]

Crestwood’s plans for Seneca Lake

In Reading, New York, 2 miles north of Watkin’s Glen on the west shoreline of Seneca Lake, Crestwood plans to store millions of barrels of liquid petroleum gases (propane and butane; so-called LPG) in depleted salt caverns. Crestwood also plans to expand existing natural gas storage in the caverns through its wholly owned subsidiary, Arlington Gas Storage. As the corporation boasts to investors, Crestwood’s stated goal is to transform the Finger Lakes Region into a “gas storage and transportation hub” for the entire Northeast.

Narrowly defined, the Arlington expansion project will fill two interconnected salt caverns—no longer used for mining salt—with compressed natural gas (methane), thus increasing the working gas capacity at this site by a third. But additional expansions are envisioned for the future, with many other empty lakeside salt caverns targeted.

While LPG would be transported to and from the cavern repositories by truck and rail, methane travels by pipeline.  [3]

The volume of gas to be stored in this area will be unprecedented. This proposed LPG storage facility alone will be the largest in the Northeast and one of the largest in the United States. The current natural gas expansion project would increase the methane inside the caverns from 1.5 billion cubic feet to 2 billion cubic feet with future plans, according to Crestwood’s website, to expand up to 10 billion—a seven-fold increase. No environmental assessment has considered the cumulative hazards of LPG and methane stored in massive amounts in close proximity. If Crestwood’s plans are realized, LPG and methane will be stored in caverns less than a quarter mile apart from each other.

The regulatory response

On August 11, 2014, in response to mounting public opposition, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) called a temporary halt to the LPG project by announcing a special Issues Conference. Its purpose is to “determine if there are any significant and substantive issues that require an adjudicatory hearing.” [4] The Issues Conference is not yet scheduled.

But the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)—and not the NYS DEC—has jurisdiction over methane storage and transport. And, in May 2014, FERC offered conditional approval of Crestwood’s natural gas expansion project. On September 30, 2014, FERC approved Crestwood’s construction plans. According to the timeline submitted in these plans, construction is scheduled to commence on October 24, 2014. [4]

This methane expansion project is advancing in the face of a global climate crisis and in the face of unparalleled public opposition and unresolved questions about geological instabilities, slip strike faults, and possible salinization of the lake, which serves as a source of drinking water for 100,000 people.

Many of these risks are hidden from public view. Outrageously, Governor Cuomo’s DEC deleted references to the risks of underground gas storage from a recent report on methane contamination of drinking water that was authored by the U.S. Geological Survey.[5]

Moreover, both the DEC and FERC have complied with Crestwood’s request to hold as proprietary business information fundamental geological knowledge about these caverns, putting key data—even basic maps—off limits to the public and to independent scientists.

Our concerns

(The information below is largely adapted from www.gasfreeseneca.com.)

Leaks of gas and brine from the caverns

 These unlined salt caverns—formed by decades of salt mining, dating back to the Erie Canal days of New York’s history—were not designed to serve as vessels for highly pressurized, explosive gases.

The cavern for which Crestwood has won FERC approval for the expanded storage of methane has a history of instability, including a collapsed roof. Independent geologists have expressed alarm about its ongoing repurposing for gas storage. The concern is that repressurizing the cavern with compressed gas may force brine or methane through cracks and fissures. [6]

Explosions and catastrophic accidents

Salt caverns have been more prone to catastrophic accidents than the other more common types of underground storage for natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas.. Since 1972, there have been 11 instances of catastrophic failure of underground gas storage facilities and each one has been a salt cavern facility. Many have included explosions with fire and loss of life, and some have required the evacuation of entire towns.

In 2001, gas migrated 7 miles from a salt cavern storage facility in Kansas, came up in abandoned brine wells and exploded, killing two people, destroying buildings and evacuating residents. There are many such abandoned brine wells just three miles from the proposed facility in downtown Watkins Glen, NY.

Contaminated drinking water

Seneca Lake is a Class AA drinking water source for 100,000 people, and salt contamination to potable water supplies is nearly impossible to remediate.

The safety of highly pressurized natural gas stored in a salt cavern beneath the bank of a large lake that serves as a drinking water source has never been evaluated.

In July 2014 Crestwood Midstream was responsible for a million-gallon spill of toxic fracking waste into a drinking water reservoir in tribal land in North Dakota. The accident killed vegetation, poisoned the soil, and threatened Lake Sakakawea. [7]

Impacts on tourism and wine industry economy

A recent report on the state’s grape and wine industry showed that it contributes $4.8 billion to the New York State economy every year, supporting the equivalent of 25,000 full-time jobs, paying over $408 million in taxes, and generating over 5.2 million wine-related tourism visits. The Finger Lakes region, in particular, has gained increasing prominence as home to world-class wines, with many wineries earning awards in national and international competitions. Governor Cuomo highlighted the success of the industry at his 2013 Governor’s Cup Wine Competition in Watkins Glen, exactly where the gas storage facility is being proposed for location and this past summer, a Seneca Lake winery won the 2014 Governor’s Cup.[8]

The region has become so widely known for its winemaking that vintners from the international community [9] have begun to invest in the area as well.

The Finger Lakes is also considered a world-class tourism destination, with Shermans Travel naming it the #1 Lake Vacation in the world last year.

Expansion of hydrofracking

Seneca Lake salt caverns solve a storage problem for the fracking industry, which seeks a repository for its supplies en route to market–which may expand to include export markets.   Of particular interest to Crestwood is the connection of the Seneca salt caverns to the Dominion pipeline. “Seneca Lake is connected to the Dominion Transmission System via the 16-inch, 20 mile Seneca West Pipeline and indirectly to the city gate of Binghamton, NY, via the 12-inch, 37.5 mile Seneca East Pipeline, which runs within approximately 4 miles of Inergy’s Stagecoach North Lateral interconnect with the Millennium Pipeline.” [10]

Climate Change

Fossil fuel extraction and required infrastructure continue to propagate climate change. Climate change is intensifying dramatically—we need to immediately transition to a clean energy economy.


[1] http://ceqpinvestor.crestwoodlp.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=132026&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1862262.

[2] http://www.crestwoodlp.com.

[3] http://ceqpinvestor.crestwoodlp.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=132026&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1373375.

[3] http://www.dec.ny.gov/press/98381.html.

[4] http://elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/file_list.asp?accession_num=20140812-5017.

[5] http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2014/10/8553530/cuomo-administration-edited-and-delayed-key-fracking-study.

[6] http://www.dcbureau.org/2014100310011/natural-resources-news-service/ferc-approves-ny-methane-storage-project.html.

[7] http://insideclimatenews.org/news/20140716/saltwater-north-dakota-fracking-spill-not-whats-found-ocean.

[8] http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/roc-drink/2014/08/13/new-york-wine-food-classic/14030439/

[9] http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/lifestyle/rocflavors/2014/07/10/paul-hobbs-christopher-bates-louis-barruol/12496027/

[10] http://ceqpinvestor.crestwoodlp.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=132026&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1373375.