FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 30, 2015
contact: Sandra Steingraber | 607. 351. 0719
Statement by We Are Seneca Lake about District Attorney Rescinding Crestwood Arrest Dismissals
Yesterday (April 29), Schuyler County District Attorney Joseph Fazzary rescinded his support for the dismissal of 84 Seneca Lake protesters that was to take place today. Previously, the District Attorney has, along with the local judges, dropped the charges for 60 protesters “in the interests of justice.” A month ago, District Attorney Fazzary had made an agreement to dismiss the remaining 84 Seneca Lake protesters in the same fashion.
We understand that the District Attorney says that he has withdrawn the promised offer because 19 new community members blocked the gates of Crestwood in a peaceful act of civil disobedience on Earth Day (April 22). Those people, between the ages of 49 and 76, had not been arrested prior and were not party to any of the dismissals in the offer.
We Are Seneca Lake is surprised by the sudden change in plan, but, more than that, concerned about the allegation that any of us have gone back on our word. There has never been any promise that there would be no more protests or even more arrests. We and our legal advisors have been very clear, in Court and out, that the extent of our promise was what we committed to in the statement we negotiated. That statement, in full, which the District Attorney expressly agreed to, is as follows:
We only have this planet. We must safeguard it for those who follow. Would that it not be necessary, but sometimes citizens of good conscience must engage in non-violent acts of civil disobedience to protect that sacred trust. As long as Crestwood Midstream Partners, or any other corporate or public or private entity, continues to threaten our way of life by the proven dangerous storage of highly compressed gas in the crumbling caverns at the Salt Point facility, I reserve the right to act as my conscience dictates in order to protect Seneca Lake, its citizens, and the surrounding environment. I reserve all rights to protest further at the Crestwood facility, although it is not my intent at this time to break the law in doing so.
No one has violated the terms of the dismissal, in spirit or in letter. The motion to dismiss is a statement we all hold in very high regard, and, without exception, all defendants take its ennobling words very seriously. The eagerness of defendants to recite the motion, en masse, in ceremonial fashion in court testifies to our commitment.
Over 144 people were given the offer to dismiss in the interests of justice so long as they could stand by this statement. At this writing, 60 have had their dismissals, and the only thing that separates them from the remaining 84 that were scheduled to be dismissed this evening is that the first 60 people had the luck of having an appearance date scheduled sooner than today’s defendants.
We are concerned about the implications of revoking offers for the 84 remaining based on the actions of 19 unrelated people. We are all individuals and believe that it is our right to be treated as such by the courts. We have never promised there would be no more protests, or no arrests. And we could not make that promise even if we wanted to. It is each citizen’s right to protest under the First Amendment, and our role, to the extent that We Are Seneca Lake is an organized group, is to train and organize people and groups that want to protest so that if they protest, whether risking arrest or not, they know how to do it so that the protest is peaceful and nonviolent, and there is cooperation with law enforcement.
The Earth Day blockade, the first since February 11, brought the total number of arrests to 235 in the six-month-old civil disobedience campaign, which opposes Crestwood’s plans for methane storage expansion in lakeside salt caverns.
Public opposition to Crestwood’s dangerous plans is growing, as evidenced by the now 24 municipal resolutions against its gas storage at Seneca Lake.
The daily news is full of reports and imagery of exploding gas lines, derailed bomb trains, and communities injured by gas infrastructure. Three days before Earth Day, a natural gas pipeline in Fresno exploded, injuring 11 and closing a major highway. The day before Earth Day, the New York Times ran an expose about the danger of bomb trains rolling through NYS communities carrying highly flammable fuels, of the type that will be riding the rails through Watkins Glen State Park to service the Seneca Lake salt caverns.
Crestwood is a Texas-based energy company with a terrible track record for safety that is willing to play Russian roulette with our drinking water. It is little wonder that new groups of people feel morally compelled to take non-violent action based on these reports and their own individual conscience—having exhausted all other legal recourse.