Jul 292015


Media Contact: Lindsay Speer | 315.383.7210

photos: http://www.wearesenecalake.com/yogisprotectseneca/ 

video: http://www.wearesenecalake.com/video/

Yoga practitioners literally bend over backwards to protect Seneca Lake

Ten Finger Lakes Residents Arrested in Civil Disobedience Blockade at Crestwood

Watkins Glen, NY – In an act of peaceful civil disobedience against gas storage in Seneca Lake salt caverns, ten Finger Lakes residents, including many practitioners of yoga, blockaded the north entrance of Crestwood Midstream on Route 14 just after dawn July 29 beginning with a series of sun salutations.

Yoga mats were rolled out on the pavement for the participants to perform a series of vinyasa poses. A dozen others joined them, doing yoga on the grass nearby.  Relaxing cello music accompanied the yoga practice, performed by Ithaca College cello teacher Elizabeth Simpkin, 49, of Ithaca, who was also arrested.

“When we practice yoga, we often dedicate our practice each day as an offering to something we love,” reflected Anastasia Benson, 22, a practitioner of Yin Yoga who was arrested, “today we do it for the future of Seneca Lake and the Finger Lakes region.”

“I am here today to stand for clean air and water,” explained Yvonne LaMontagne, 64, of Ithaca. “They are fundamental and necessary components of a healthy natural environment, an environment that my children will need to support and nourish their health and that is needed by all life on the planet.”

They were joined by Charley Bowman, 68, of Getsville, NY.  “I heard that [longtime peace activist] Jerry Berrigan passed away this week, and that the funeral is today in Syracuse. Getting arrested standing up for what is right seemed like an appropriate way to honor his life.” Berrigan, 95, was one of three brothers known for their civil disobedience work throughout their lives.

Many of the blockaders and their supporters had also participated in the “Prayer for the Finger Lakes” event on June 21 at Taughannock Park, where over 100 people performed 108 sun salutations to mark the summer solstice and raise money and awareness to benefit Gas Free Seneca, which is fighting the proposed LPG gas storage facility through the regulatory process and courts.

Today’s blockaders held banners that said, “Our lives hang in the balance,” and “Bending over backward to save Seneca Lake.” Blockaders included plenty of balancing and backbend poses such as Vrikshasana (tree pose), Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel), and Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge) along with acroyoga poses Back Flying Bird and High Flying Whale.  They also meditated on the concept of Ahimsa (nonviolence), the first of the five ethical precepts of the Yoga Sutra.

“I am here today because big out of town businesses like Crestwood, who are more concerned with profit than common sense, health, or the environment, should not be able to dictate what happens to our region,” explained Kim Knight, 31, of Covert. “Fossil fuels as power should not be being expanded; there are plenty of other renewable ways to create energy and power, and that is what we should be focused on.”

A large empty flatbed truck was blocked at the north gate at 8 a.m. Schuyler County deputies arrested the 10 shortly after 8:30 a.m. at both the North and South gates of the Crestwood property.  As before, the protesters were taken into custody, charged with trespassing and released.

The total number of arrests in the nine-month-old civil disobedience campaign now stands at 319, with 270 individuals arrested.

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 and LPG storage in lakeside salt caverns and which has been ongoing since October 2014.

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.

The ten arrested today were:

Anastasia Benson, 22, Lodi, Seneca County

Charlie Bowman, 68, Getzville, Erie County

David Gallahan, 62, Ithaca, Tompkins County

Loretta Heimbuch, 65, Trumansburg, Tompkins County

William Huston, 54, Binghamton, Broome County

Kim Knight, 31, Covert, Seneca County

Mikayla Kravetz, 22, Poplar Ridge, Cayuga County

Yvonne LaMontagne, 64, Ithaca, Tompkins County

Stacey McNeill, 44, Ithaca, Tompkins County

Elizabeth Simkin, 49, Ithaca, Tompkins 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.

Read Gannett’s investigative report about the risks and dangers of LPG gas storage: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/local/watchdog/2015/06/26/seneca-gas-storage-debated/29272421/.

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/.