FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, May 16, 2016
Contact: Lindsay Speer, We Are Seneca Lake, 315-383-7210 firstname.lastname@example.org
We Are Seneca Lake Unites with NYC Advocates to Protest Con Ed Investment in Underground Fracked Gas Storage Facilities
“An Aliso Canyon-style disaster in New York’s wine country is not worth the risk!” says actor James Cromwell and others outside Con Ed shareholder meeting
May 16, 2016 – New York, NY—More than 100 upstate and downstate New Yorkers joined forces today in a demonstration against Consolidated Edison’s recently announced $975 million investment in fracked gas infrastructure, including a controversial gas storage facility in old salt mines at Seneca Lake in the heart of New York’s wine country.
Joined by New York City-based climate and environmental justice advocates, unions, and actor James Cromwell, Finger Lakes residents made their voices heard outside of the Con Edison annual shareholder meeting. This diverse community minded group assembled to call for an end to risky gas storage projects in the Finger Lakes and for Con Ed instead to put its resources into energy efficiency and renewable energy.
While demonstrators outside the shareholder meeting urged Con Ed to back out of the risky deal, We Are Seneca Lake activist and environmental consultant John Dennis, PhD, delivered a similar message, speaking for eight minutes, inside the meeting to the shareholders themselves. Dennis drew attention in particular to the geologic and water quality risks associated with the Seneca Lake facility, while also questioning the wisdom of a partnership with Crestwood Equity Partners, which has a troubled record of environmental violations throughout the United States. Dennis hand-delivered a letter from the Finger Lakes Wine Business Coalition stating their concerns and opposition to the project.
“Seneca Lake is the heart of Finger Lakes wine country,” explained winemaker Will Ouweleen. “We simply can’t afford any accidents there.”
“We can’t believe Con Ed would invest, and become liable, in this facility, particularly under continued Crestwood management,” noted Jan Quarles, a Seneca County farm owner, during a press conference outside Con Ed headquarters near Union Square. “Does Con Ed, its shareholders and ratepayers really want this risk? The methane leak in Porter Ranch, California was a complete disaster and forced 5000 people to evacuate, and SoCalGas is being sued for over $2 billion. New York can’t afford that.”
“Crestwood has a terrible history of water quality violations and brine spills,” she continued. “Our drinking water, our health, and our sustainable economy based on farming and viticulture are beyond value and cannot afford to be compromised.”
Chanting “No Porter Ranch in New York” and “Break free from fossil fuels,” the protesters held banners that read “We will not be Con-ned #BreakFree” and “Say no to fracked gas infrastructure,” and confronted shareholders as they arrived for the annual meeting.
Con Ed’s joint venture with Crestwood Equity Partners is to “own and expand” four underground methane gas storage facilities and three pipelines in the Northeast, including the Seneca Lake facility. Bloomberg reports the joint venture is expected to be finalized in the second quarter. Demonstrating opposition to the danger posed by this project, over 550 area residents who call themselves “We Are Seneca Lake” have been arrested peacefully protesting this facility in the two years since the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved construction. Since then, Crestwood’s stock has plummeted, and notably Crestwood has teetered on bankruptcy for the past year.
No construction has begun to date.
Thirty-one municipalities and 372 businesses have also voiced opposition to gas storage in salt caverns under the shores of Seneca Lake, and FERC has been flooded with comments opposing the extension of the project’s construction permit, thanks to years of organizing work by Gas Free Seneca.
Maria Castaneda, Secretary Treasurer of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the largest healthcare union in the nation said, “As healthcare workers and community members, we are opposed to the building of this gas storage facility because it could be a threat to clean drinking water and public health.”
“We oppose efforts to expand dependence on fossil fuels that exacerbate the crisis of climate change, and instead support the creation of good, middle-class green energy jobs,” Castaneda continued. “It’s fundamentally wrong to build out the infrastructure for fracking, which is known to be toxic and dangerous for human health. We stand in solidarity with the Finger Lakes against the risks of this project.”
“Communities across New York are fighting to protect themselves from an onslaught of fracked natural gas pipelines, storage, and power plants,” said Irene Weiser, a town councilmember in the Finger Lakes region and organizer of Fossil Free Tompkins. “Together we banned fracking in New York – now we’re standing together, united against all fossil fuel expansion. Our futures depend on it!”
Methane is 86 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a twenty year timeframe, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. A 2015 study found that methane leakage rates from gas infrastructure have been nationally underreported due to a faulty sensor in the device used to measure such emissions at each site. A study from the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences in March 2016 found that methane emissions in the United States have increased by 30% over the past decade.
Annel Hernandez of NYC Environmental Justice Alliance said, “it’s the communities that can least afford it – low income, people of color – that bear the biggest costs of climate change. We need Con Ed to invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy infrastructure, not tie itself to risky fossil fuels.”
Con Ed’s bet on methane gas as New York City’s energy future undermines New York’s commitment to 50 percent of all electricity consumed in New York State is to result from renewable energy sources by 2030, as laid out in the Clean Energy Standard.
“Creating ‘sacrifice zones’ upstate will only result in New York City becoming a sacrifice zone itself as the sea levels rise,” Cromwell concluded. “This is an incredible opportunity to bring all these movements together. When we recognize the interconnection between all the issues – economic justice, racial justice, justice for women – and stand together, we will win.”
We Are Seneca Lake is an ongoing, citizen-based, grassroots campaign that seeks to protect Seneca Lake and the surrounding region from gas storage expansion by Texas-based energy company, Crestwood Midstream. Crestwood’s intention is to repurpose the crumbling salt mines underneath Seneca Lake’s hillside into massive, unlined gas tanks for three highly pressurized products of fracking: methane (natural gas), and propane and butane (LPG, or Liquefied Petroleum Gases) and to turn the Finger Lakes into a fracked gas transportation and storage hub for the entire Northeast. Our intention is to direct the future of our community down sustainable, renewable pathways.
BerlinRosen Public Affairs