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Media Contact: Lindsay Speer 315-383-7210 firstname.lastname@example.org
Crestwood Promises Minor Changes to Gas Storage Plans at Seneca Lake
We Are Seneca Lake vows to continue opposition
August 9, 2016 – Watkins Glen, NY—In a last-ditch attempt to make its project palatable to residents of the Finger Lakes, yesterday Crestwood’s attorneys promised the Department of Environmental Conservation that it was cutting back the scale of its plans to store explosive gases in old salt caverns under the shores of Seneca Lake. These promises did not impress members of We Are Seneca Lake.
“Butane storage was always a minor part of the project,” noted Ruth Young, of We Are Seneca Lake and former Schuyler County Legislator and former Democratic Committee chair in Schuyler County. “This slight reduction from 2.1 to 1.5 million barrels still builds 70 percent of the propane storage, and changes nothing about the plans to store methane. The risks still remain and threaten Seneca Lake as a drinking water source, a tourist hotspot and world-class wine region.”
“These reductions are not enough,” explained Lindsay Speer, of We Are Seneca Lake. “It’s like a smoker promising to cut back from 3 packs to 2 packs a day with a promise not to smoke in bed: it still puts the kids in the house at risk for asthma and house fires. Underground gas storage in any quantity is inherently unsafe. We do not want an Aliso Canyon at Seneca Lake.”
Crestwood’s decision to scale back to reduce risks and impacts in the face of overwhelming public opposition is validation for what We Are Seneca Lake and other groups opposed to the plans have said since the beginning: pressurized gas storage in unlined salt caverns brings with it inherent dangers.
Crestwood has still not addressed the very serious issue of cavern integrity that continues to be under review by the DEC appointed Administrative Law Judge, and the threat to the salinity level of the lake. Storage of LPG in these caverns in the 1970s corresponded with an increase in Seneca Lake’s salinity. Further, it appears that the state employee who signed off on the permit for the propane storage project was never authorized to do so, another issue that is currently under review in the adjudicatory proceedings.
Thirty-two municipalities around Seneca Lake have passed resolutions in opposition to Crestwood’s plans. The outlier remains Schuyler County.
On Monday night, the Schuyler County Legislature ignored a standing-room only crowd of constituents, business owners, and Seneca County Supervisor Steve Churchill voicing opposition to gas storage plans.
Legislative Chairman Denis Fagin, founder of Fagan Engineering, a company with extensive involvement in the oil and gas industry and pipelines, took the role of Crestwood defender during the proceedings. The resolution passed 6-2, even though only two people spoke in favor of the resolution. Legislators Van Harp and Michael Lausell voted against it.
Crestwood’s revised proposal has been submitted in an unconventional method directly to the Administrative Law Judge in a letter and it is unclear whether it will be accepted. The full revised plans should be made available for public review. It is clearly an attempt to placate opposition by removing some of the visual surface impacts of mass industrialization. All transport LPG by truck and rail are being scrapped, and propane will be transported by pipeline only.
“I believe the elimination of rail transport is significant but it shows they are aware of their weakness on this issue with Senators Schumer and Gillibrand,” noted Daryl Anderson, a local farmer and part of We Are Seneca Lake.
We Are Seneca Lake undertook a major letter-writing campaign last summer to the Senators, highlighting concerns including the risks of butane transport across the 75-year-old rail bridge that spans the gorge at Watkins Glen State Park. The New York State Parks Commission passed a resolution in December 2015 opposing transport of explosive gases by rail over Watkins Glen State Park.
Crestwood’s concessions only apply to the LPG storage project, and do nothing to stop the storage of fracked methane gas, which is a separately regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on the same property as the LPG project. The drilling, transportation and storage of methane poses huge impacts to the climate.
The We Are Seneca Lake movement began in 2014 when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved Crestwood’s plans for methane gas storage in the salt caverns at Seneca Lake, after years of citizens’ concerns voiced through the regulatory process going unheeded. Since then, regular nonviolent direct action protests at the gates of Crestwood’s facility have resulted in over 650 arrests for civil disobedience or trespass in a massive upwelling of community opposition. To date, construction of the methane gas project has not yet begun.
The We Are Seneca Lake movement remains committed to opposing gas storage in the unlined salt caverns under the shores of Seneca Lake.