FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—May 13, 2015
Media Contact: Sandra Steingraber | 607.351.0719
photos: http://www.wearesenecalake.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/IMG_4533.jpg [Josh Fox arrest]
Renewable Energy Builders Arrested in Civil Disobedience Blockade at Crestwood Midstream
Academy Award-nominated filmmaker, Josh Fox, Arrested with Renewable Energy Business Leaders; Renovus Solar Offers Full-Time Jobs to Crestwood Workers; Protesters Call for Halt to Further Fossil Fuel Build-Out at Seneca Lake
Watkins Glen, NY – In an act of civil disobedience, gas storage protesters led by leaders of the renewable energy movement—including Renovus Solar CEO Joe Sliker—and Academy Award-nominated filmmaker, Josh Fox, formed a human blockade this morning at both entrances of Crestwood Midstream on Route 14 and prevented all traffic from entering or leaving the site.
All 21 people were arrested just before noon by Schuyler County deputies and Village of Watkins Glen Police, taken into custody, charged with trespassing, and released.
At part of the demonstration, Renovus Solar—a local renewal energy company—set up an outdoor “help wanted” desk directly outside of Crestwood’s gates. Staffed by Renovus’ manager of human resources, Tiffany Walker, the display advertised job openings in the company and offered applications. Renovus created 50 full-time permanent jobs last year alone and is currently hiring.
The blockaders held banners that said, “Renewable Energy Builders Against Crestwood: Whatever Gas Can Do, We Can Do Better” and “The Fossil Fuel Party is Over. Vacate Premises Immediately.”
Arrestees included singer and long-time renewable energy advocate, Bethany Yarrow and cellist Rufus Cappadocia, of the New York City musical duo “Bethany and Rufus,” who led blockaders in song before and during arrests.
In a speech made while blockading a truck, Sliker announced that local small business in the thriving renewable energy industry were now joining the fight against Crestwood—just as local wineries had done before them.
Cornell University climate scientist, Robert Howarth, was on hand to address the blockaders and emphasized that the regional opposition to gas storage in Seneca Lake salt caverns reflects a growing commitment to a thriving renewable Finger Lakes and is part of a nationwide rejection of a backwards-looking fossil fuel industry whose air pollution along was responsible for more than 4,000 deaths per year in New York State.
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 storage expansion in lakeside salt caverns and which has been ongoing since October 2014.
The total number of arrests now stands at 272 in the seven-month-old civil disobedience campaign.
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.
Joe Sliker, CEO of Renovus Energy, said, “Solar is rapidly expanding and Renovus is a thriving regional business. In contrast to the eight to ten permanent jobs created by the gas storage facility, Renovus has added over 50 new, permanent jobs—just in the last year alone. And we are adding more every single day. These are real, good jobs. We pay better wages. It’s safer. We offer full benefits, and paid time off, and we respect our team. We value the whole of the region and the region’s economy which is why its so important to us that our business compliment the existing economies, what it’s taken generations to build, not undercut it, as Crestwood would do. We value our employees, we value our neighbors and encourage families throughout the Finger Lakes to choose a more prosperous path forth.” [Full statement below.]
Josh Fox said, “I’m here to support my friends and my community who are protecting Seneca Lake from underground gas storage. It’s an incredibly important location – drinking water for 100,000 people part of a microclimate that supports distilleries, wineries, breweries and agriculture. I’m here primarily though because this is a fracking site. We have to stop fracking all across America, wherever it is going to be… I’m also here to say the regulatory agency, which is FERC – the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission – which is just 5 people who are appointed by the President- is really acting like a subsidiary of the fossil fuel industry masquerading as a government agency. FERC has to be overhauled. FERC is a disaster….So today is very important because it is a national moment. It is a very clear message….We want renewable energy, and not these kinds of crazy projects.”
Krys Cail, 62, of Ulysses, and a co-organizer of a shared solar energy cooperative and one of the arrested blockaders, said, “New York State, through its Public Service Commission, is launching the REV (Reforming the Energy Vision) process, by which our state will move rapidly into the new era of renewable energy. Now is not the time to build dangerous and polluting fossil fuel storage that will look, down the road just a few years, like promoting a buggy-whip factory while competitors introduced the automobile. Renewable energy is the future– and the companies and cooperatives making renewable energy available to us can create many, many more jobs in our state than fossil fuels do. For the jobs, for the safety of our residents and businesses, and for Seneca Lake, we need to ramp up renewables as we ramp DOWN fossil fuels.”
Those arrested today were:
Gordon Bonnet, 54, Trumansburg, Tompkins County
Dan Burgevin, 68, Trumansburg, Tompkins County
Rufus Cappadocia, 47, Brooklyn, Kings County
Krys Cail, 62, Ulysses, Tompkins County
Greg Copeland, 54, Ithaca, Tompkins County
Lauren Eastwood, 45, Plattsburgh, Clinton County
Lisa Fernandez, 48, Burdett, Schuyler County
Josh Fox, 43, Brooklyn, Kings County
John Hoffman, 62, Ithaca, Tompkins County
Colleen Kattau, 56, Cortland, Cortland County
Bill Kitchen, 62, Johnstown, Fulton County
Keith Liblick, 41, Ithaca, Tompkins County
Jon McNamara, 34, Owego, Tioga County
Amanda Postma, 30, Lodi, Seneca County
Johnno Potts, 34, Hector, Schuyler County
Joe Sliker, 33, Ulysses, Tompkins County
Phil Terrie, 66, Ithaca, Tompkins County
Michele VanCoppenolle, 62, Penn Yan, Yates County
Bethany Yarrow, 44, West Fulton, Schoharie County
Ken Zeserson, 67, Ulysses, Tompkins County
Lee Ziesche, 25, Brooklyn, Kings 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.
Complete Statement of Renovus Solar CEO Joe Sliker:
I’m Joe Sliker. I’m the President and CEO of Renovus Solar, and I’m risking arrest today at the gates of the Crestwood gas storage facility on Seneca Lake.
We know from experience across the country, from similar gas storage facilities and fracking operations in general, that storing massive amounts of highly pressurized, explosive gases in old salt caverns is risky. These facilities carry with them inherent dangers; to local residents and the environment, and perhaps most of all, for the workers themselves.
Additionally, this gas storage facility threatens the community character and the economy of the entire region.
In contrast, the solar industry complements the existing, thriving & growing winery and tourism industries. Solar is cleaner, safer, and a more prosperous path forth for families and even for all of the Crestwood employees.
So, I’m here today for all of the good men and women who risk their lives every single day for their jobs. I’m here for the welders, the pipe fitters, the electricians, the truckers, and all of the hard working people who go to work every day to provide for their families. I’m here for those people who lay their lives on the line every morning when they wake up, for those people whose hands bleed while they work, and for the families that love and worry about them.
I’m here to offer them a choice. I’m here to tell them that we don’t have to support a dangerous facility and risk our lives and the lives of our loved ones in order to have good paying jobs.
I’m here to offer all of those people a Better Job. Today. Right now. Our Renovus HR manager is here with a stack of applications. Come talk to us.
Solar is rapidly expanding and Renovus is a thriving regional business. In contrast to the eight to ten permanent jobs promised by the gas storage facility, Renovus has added over 50 new, permanent jobs just in the past year. And we are adding more every single day. These are real, good jobs. We pay better wages. It’s safer. We offer full benefits, and paid time off, and we respect our team.
We value the whole of the region and the region’s economy which is why its so important to us that our business compliment the existing economies, what its taken generations to build, not undercut it, as Crestwood would do. We value our employees, we value our neighbors and encourage families throughout the Finger Lakes to choose a more prosperous path forth.
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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