FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – January 18, 2016
media contact: Sandra Steingraber 607.351.0719
Seven Arrested in MLK Day Civil Disobedience Action at Crestwood
Blockaders declare solidarity with Californians suffering from massive gas storage leak in Porter Ranch near Los Angeles
Watkins Glen, NY – In his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
In that spirit, and as part of the ongoing civil disobedience campaign against gas storage called We Are Seneca Lake, seven protesters from six different New York counties declared their support for the residents of Porter Ranch, California, where a massive leak from an underground gas storage facility has sickened and displaced thousands of families and shows no sign of abating.
The seven formed a human chain across the north entrance of Crestwood Midstream on Route 14 at 8:45 a.m. this morning. While blocking all traffic entering and leaving the facility, the group read a statement of solidarity with the people of Porter Ranch before their arrest by Schuyler County deputies at 9:15 a.m.
Today’s blockaders held banners that said, “Seneca Lake to Porter Ranch: Shut It All Down” and “Gas Storage Courts Disaster.” Porter Ranch activists use #shutitALLdown as their signature hashtag on Twitter.
All those arrested were transported to the Schuyler County Sheriff’s department, charged with disorderly conduct, and released. The total number of arrests in the sixteen-month-old civil disobedience campaign now stands at 467.
The uncontrolled gas leak at the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility—the single largest in the U.S.—was discovered on Oct. 23, 2015. Governor Brown declared a state of emergency on Jan. 6, 2016. Thus far, more than 2,500 families have fled their homes and more than 1,000 children have been relocated to other schools. Health officials now acknowledge they initially underestimated the scope of the gas leak and the possible attendant health risks. Self-reported health complaints include nausea, dizziness, vomiting, shortness of breath, and headaches.
As We Are Seneca Lake protesters noted in their statement of support, the massive gas leak at Porter Ranch is a problem with no end in sight and no obvious solution: “People of Porter Ranch, we know your lives were upended because no one replaced a safety valve at the bottom of the well. We don’t believe we have bottom safety valves here either…. What affects you directly today could affect us directly tomorrow.”
Elizabeth Peet, 48, of the Town of Hector in Schuyler County, said, “Today as we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I am reminded that my civic responsibility includes civil disobedience while my elected officials continue to fail to protect our lake and surrounding communities from dangerous gas storage expansion.”
Michael Black, 63, of Lakemont in Yates County, said, “I was born in Schuyler County and have lived on the shores of Seneca Lake for nearly a half century. I now live seven miles from Crestwood. What happens here happens to me as well. If the gas storage facility here were to leak—as is happening in southern California—I could be in danger. If it explodes I would likely be killed.”
The We Are Seneca Lake movement opposes Crestwood’s plans for methane and LPG storage in lakeside salt caverns and has been ongoing since October 2014.
Crestwood’s methane gas storage expansion project was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in October 2014 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 seven arrested today were:
Richard Battaglia, 53, Richford, Tioga County
Michael Black, 63, Lakemont, Yates County
Caroline Byrne, 39, Ithaca, Tompkins County
Angela Cannon-Crothers, 50, Naples, Ontario County
Kim Knight, 31, Covert, Seneca County
Stacey McNeill, 45, Ithaca, Tompkins County
Elizabeth Peet, 48, Hector, Schuyler 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/.
Background on the Protests:
Protesters have been blocking the Crestwood gas storage facility gates since Thursday, October 23, 2014, including a rally with more than 200 people on Friday, October 24th. On Wednesday, October 29th, 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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