Charges dismissed for We Are Seneca Lake protesters

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Mar 192015

Judge Raymond Berry dismissed all charges against the 42 protesters, according to a news release from We Are Seneca Lake.

People from all over the region have held ongoing protests at the gates of Crestwood Midstream in the Town of Reading Schuyler County for about five months. Protesters have included local winemakers, teachers, students and musicians.

According to We Are Seneca Lake, in an agreement with the Schuyler County District Attorney’s office, the charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct will also be dismissed against about 100 additional people whose cases were pending.

In the past, protesters have criticized Berry for handing down maximum sentences.

The defendants who appeared before Berry on Wednesday submitted an oral motion asking for their charges to be dismissed. Their statement read:

“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.”

Assistant District Attorney John Tunney expressed his willingness to accept a motion to dismiss after each recitation, members of We Are Seneca Lake stated.

Sujata Gibson, a defense attorney who has worked with the protesters since December, said the motion dismissals were a historic move that affirms the importance of the protesters.

“We’ve seen a sea change in the way the court and the prosecutors have reacted to our cases — from maximum sentences for jail terms for trespassing violations to large-scale offers to support dismissals in the interests of justice. This is a testament to the sincerity and passion of the protesters,” Gibson stated in a press release.

Protesters that had motions dismissed Wednesday:

Judy Abrams, 66, Trumansburg, Tompkins County;

Edgar Brown, 60, Naples, Ontario County;

Carolyn Byrne, 38, Ithaca, Tompkins County;

Deborah Cippola-Dennis, 49, Dryden, Tompkins County;

Joanne Cippola-Dennis, 53, Dryden, Tompkins County;

Lyndsay Clark, 53, Springwater, Livingston County;

James Connor, 83, Mecklenburg, Schuyler County;

Doug Couchon, 64, Elmira, Chemung County;

Kim Cunningham, 58, Naples, Ontario County;

John Dennis, 63, Lansing, Tompkins County;

Michael Dineen, 65, Ovid, Seneca County;

Peter Drobney, 56, Corning, Steuben County;

Martha Ferger, 90, Dryden, Tompkins County;

Richard Figiel, 68, Hector, Schuyler County;

Carrie Fischer, 38 Fayette, Seneca County;

Kenneth Fogarty, 75, Guilford, Chenango County;

Lynn Gerry, 58, Watkins Glen, Schuyler County;

Heather Hallagan, 41, Meckenburg, Schuyler County;

Carey Harben, 47, Hector, Schuyler County;

Nancy Kasper, 56, North Rose, Wayne County;

Sharon Kahkonen, 65, Mecklenburg, Schuyler County;

Crow Marley, 55, Hector, Schuyler County;

Faith Meckley, 20, Geneva, Ontario County;

Kelly Morris, 55, Danby, Tompkins County;

Paul Passavant, 48, Geneva, Ontario County;

Kirsten Pierce, 44, Burdett, Schuyler County;

Mariah Plumlee, 35, Covert, Seneca County;

Leslie Potter, 70, Big Flats, Chemung County;

Dan Rapaport, 54, Newfield, Tompkins County;

Stephanie Redmond, 38, Ithaca, Tompkins County;

Rick Rogers, 66, Spencer, Tioga County;

Cat Rossiter, 62, Sayre, Bradford County;

Laura Salamendra, 30, Geneva, Ontario County;

Coby Schultz, 54, Springwater, Livingston County;

Elan Shapiro, 67, Ithaca, Tompkins County;

Brion Seime, 42, Newfield, Tompkins County;

Stefan Senders, 55, Hector, Schuyler County;

Audrey Southern, 31, Burdett, Schuyler County;

Chris Tate, 52, Hector, Schuyler County;

John Wertis, 51, Wertis, Trumansburg, Tompkins County;

Dwain Wilder, 75, Rochester, Monroe County;

Ruth Young, 77, Horseheads, Chemung County.

Follow Kelsey O’Connor on Twitter @ijkoconnor.

WRITE ON: Two rallies for one lake

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Jan 232015

WRITE ON: Two rallies for one lake

By MICHAEL FITZGERALD | Posted: Friday, January 23, 2015 5:05 pm

Finger Lakes Times, Geneva, NY


What a difference six months can make.

A regional rally of nearly 500 people marched through Watkins Glen last July to protest a narrowly approved Schuyler County Legislature resolution supporting liquid propane gas storage in unlined salt caverns on the west shore of Seneca Lake.

That county resolution urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to approve a proposal to store 88 million gallons of LPG in caverns three miles north of Watkins Glen.

Next Saturday, Jan. 31, Geneva will be the site of another regional rally. But this one is to make it clear the future of the lake is not solely in the hands of misguided Schuyler County elected officials.

The rally has also been organized to demonstrate the rapidly growing regional — and nearly unanimous — Finger Lakes solidarity against the project.

The Geneva rally will begin at Waterfront Park followed by a march through downtown (with a visit to GOP Congressman Tom Reed’s office) before ending up at Geneva City Hall.

Speakers include Seneca County’s Steve Churchill, environmental activist Sandra Steingraber, Geneva City Councilman Ken Camera and Doug Couchon, one of the key organizers of the “We Are Seneca Lake” group.

We Are Seneca Lake has been grabbing state and national headlines since October for its blockade and arrests at the Town of Reading site where Crestwood of Houston has federal approval to store natural gas and is seeking permits to add LPG — under high pressure — to its underground inventory.

Two hundred people had been arrested for trespassing as of Monday. Arrests continue almost daily.

The Geneva rally, dubbed “We Are Seneca Lake, Too,” is part of the run-up to the Feb. 12 state Department of Environmental Conservation issues conference in Horseheads.

James T. McClymonds, chief administrative law judge for the DEC, will be taking testimony from proponents and opponents.

If McClymonds believes the issues and evidence opposing a state permit for the LPG storage are weighty enough, he is expected to recommend a court hearing at a later date.

It’s like a playoff game. Everything is on the line for opponents who need to convince McClymonds to give them a day in court. The same for Crestwood, which wants the permits issued to start LPG storage in the caverns right away.

Among other issues, the danger posed to lake water quality is expected to be a key matter on the table. Seneca Lake currently provides water to more than 100,000 people.

While both sides have prepared their evidence and lined up a slew of experts to testify, the Schuyler County Legislature — the same legislature that voted to support the LPG storage in July — decided against becoming involved in the conference, instead opting to let gas industry lobbyists make their case for approval.

But in a surprise move, Schuyler legislators Michael Lausell, a Democrat, and Van Harp, a Republican, broke ranks with their colleagues and filed with the DEC to be allowed to offer evidence and testimony outlining concerns about sketchy safety protocols in the county to handle any propane storage related emergency.

Their action constitutes a political earthquake and directly challenges Dennis Fagan, just reelected legislative chair and an ardent booster of LPG storage. His support comes despite citizens’ demands he recuse himself from all gas matters because of a perceived conflict of interest. Fagan is up for reelection in November to keep his legislative seat.

The political case has been tightly stitched against the LPG storage with each rally, the regional alliance, official government-backed resolutions, arrests and overwhelming public opposition.

If the scientific case presented Feb. 12 is as strong, perhaps the next regional rallies will be celebrations of making it through this playoff.

Fitzgerald worked for six newspapers as a writer and editor as well as a correspondent for several news services. He lives in Valois and Watkins Glen with his wife. They are owner/operators of a publishing enterprise called *subject2change Media. His “Write On” column appears Fridays. He can be contacted at