The DEC announced Monday it will hold a conference with key parties about the proposal to store liquid propane and butane in Town of Reading, Schuyler County.
The Department of Environmental Conservation on Monday afternoon announced it will ask an administrative law judge to hear further comments on the Crestwood Midstream Partners project.
“DEC will not grant a permit unless it can be demonstrated that the permit is in compliance with all legal requirements and that the proposed activity can be done safely in New York State,” according to anotice on its website.
The announcement was good news for the project’s opponents.
“This is a great thing,” said Sylvia Fox, a Town of Reading resident, to Schuyler County legislators Monday night.
“It gives me hope that our state government is listening to us,” Fox said, but she and several other speakers at the session said local lawmakers are not listening, and they repeated their plea that the legislature rescind its June vote that supported the gas storage project.
“Step back. Let’s redo this whole thing,” said Paul Wehrung, of Burdett. “It’s too serious to let it go the way it’s going.”
“There’s no good purpose with passing a resolution that shuts people out and that limits debate,” said Legislator Michael Lausell, D-Hector, who has opposed the gas storage project. “A lot of people in this county feel that they’re not being listened to.”
The administrative judge will hear from DEC staff, Crestwood and any group or individual who files a petition for party status. No date or location for the process was announced.
Known as an “issues conference,” the purpose is to define significant and substantive points of dispute, according to the DEC. An adjudicatory hearing to litigate disputed issues could follow.
David Crea, an engineer at U.S. Salt in Watkins Glen, which is owned by Crestwood, said people involved in the project have known for some time that DEC staff finished its review of the project in April 2013 and recommended approval.
Schuyler County Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan has said he has been told the same by an insider in the DEC.
The issues conference will be “a spectacle that will rival NASCAR,” Crea said, describing it as a tactic to help Gov. Andrew Cuomo delay making a decision until after the November gubernatorial election.
Crestwood issued a statement Monday expressing its disappointment in the DEC’s decision, which comes five years into the permitting process:
“… The review process has been extensive and thorough, and the department has confirmed it has all of the information required to make a decision later this year. This shovel-ready project has been designed to achieve the highest safety and environmental standards, will add significant tax base to local economies, and will help local consumers avoid paying more than they should for propane supplies during the winter months.”
Crestwood, under the subsidiary name of Finger Lakes LPG Storage, has proposed to build a new underground LPG storage facility to store and distribute propane and butane on a portion of a 576-acre site on state Routes 14 and 14A, west of Seneca Lake. The storage facility would utilize existing caverns in the Syracuse salt formation created by US Salt and its predecessors’ salt production operations.