We Are Seneca Lake Blockade
Gas Storage & Compressor Station in Finger Lakes
On Eve of Major New Construction,
Residents Shut Down Facility and Tell Crestwood to GO HOME!
Larger rally and more civil disobedience planned for Friday (October 24) morning.
More than two dozen residents put their bodies on the line today in a last-resort protest to stop Texas-based Crestwood Midstream from starting construction on a major gas storage expansion project in the heart of the Finger Lakes, which is authorized to begin this Friday. The protesters formed a human blockade in front of the facility’s gate, shutting down the facility since 10:00 AM (as of 2:00 PM, they are still there and will stay through the end of the day). This action comes after pursuing every avenue possible to stop the misbegotten project and after being thwarted by an unacceptable process and denial of science.
The protests this week – the ‘WE ARE SENECA LAKE’ action – 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 unparalleled 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. Outrageously, a Capital New York investigation just revealed that Governor Cuomo’s DEC excised references to the risks of underground gas storage from a 2011 federal report on methane contamination of drinking water and has allowed key data to remain hidden.
One of the residents participating in the human blockade, Sandra Steingraber, PhD, a renowned biologist and author, said, “Seneca Lake is a source of drinking water for 100,000 people and a source of economic prosperity for the whole region, not a gas station for fracking operations. It’s a place for tourists, wineries, farms and families. Speaking with our bodies in an act of civil disobedience is a measure of last recourse to protect our home, our water, and our local economy – with our bodies and our voices, telling Texas-based Crestwood to go home!”
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 the 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).
Doug Couchon of Elmira, another of the residents in the blockade, said, “Crestwood is threatening our water, our local economy and our families. We’ve tried everything to stop this disastrous project, and now peaceful civil disobedience is our last resort.”
Also part of the blockade on Thursday, Lyn Gerry of Watkins Glen said, “As we literally put our bodies on the line, we once again call on President Obama, Governor Cuomo, Senator Schumer, Senator Gillibrand, and Congressman Reed to do what’s right and step in and stop this terrible project from ruining the heart of the Finger Lakes.”
Friday rally and civil disobedience details
A larger rally, as well as continuation of the human blockade, is planned for Friday, October 24th, rain or shine. Speakers at the rally will include Lou Damiani, owner of Damiani Wine Cellars; Will Ouweleen, co-owner of the O-Neh-Da and Eagle Crest Vineyards; Barbara Schiessher of Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association; Michael Warren Thomas, host of New York radio show ‘The Grapevine;’ and former Schuyler County legislator Bob Fitzsimmons.
WHAT: Rally, press conference and protest at the gates of the Crestwood compressor station site on Seneca Lake
WHEN: Friday, October 24 at 10: 00 AM, rain or shine
WHERE: Outside the Crestwood compressor station site on Seneca Lake
WHO: Finger Lakes residents, scientists, health professionals, winery owners, local businesses, Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association
All concerned citizens are encouraged to come and wear blue.
Local businesses and wineries are part of broad opposition to Texas-based Crestwood-Midstream’s proposal to use old abandoned salt caverns along Seneca Lake to store millions of barrels of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) and billions of cubic feet of natural gas. The proposal has generated opposition from over 200 businesses, over 60 wineries, 11 municipalities (including neighboring Watkins Glen) and thousands and thousands of residents in the Finger Lakes region who are concerned about the threat it poses to public health and safety, one of the state’s largest supplies of drinking water, the local economy, and the area’s growing wine and tourism industry.
Residents, wineries and other local businesses have issued emergency calls to President Obama, U.S. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, Congressman Reed and Governor Cuomo to immediately step in and stop this reckless project that threatens the heart of the Finger Lakes, many people’s health and the drinking water source for 100,000 people.
Additionally, an investigative journalist with DC Bureau recently uncovered other scientific objections to the project, to which FERC did not give due consideration in issuing approval. Independent scientists have warned about the unstable geology of the salt caverns, including the fact that a 400,000 ton chunk of rock – roughly the size of an aircraft carrier – had given way in the very cavern that the company proposed to use for gas storage.
Furthermore, in August, Dr. Rob Mackenzie, a retired CEO of Cayuga Medical Center, a hospital about 20 miles east, raised objections. An experienced risk analyst, Mackenzie prepared a formal quantitative risk analysis of the Crestwood methane gas proposal. Mackenzie analyzed accident events — major fires, explosions, collapses, catastrophic loss of product, evacuations — at salt cavern storage facilities in the United States dating back to 1972. He concluded that the risk of an “extremely serious” salt cavern event within Schuyler County over the next 25 years is more than 35%.
According to Energy Information Administration data uncovered by Mackenzie – reported by Peter Mantius of DC Bureau – gas storage facilities in salt caverns in the United States have had high rates of problems. Between 1972 and 2012,there have been 18 “serious or extremely serious incidents” at U.S. salt cavern storage facilities, Mackenzie wrote, citing EIA data. That translates to an incident rate in the US of about 60%.
Mackenzie also found that nine of the 18 salt cavern incidents involved large fires and/or explosions; six involved loss of life or serious injury; eight involved evacuations of between 30 and 2,000 residents; and 13 involved extremely serious property losses.
Seneca Lake is economically critical to the region and New York State. A recent report on the state’s grape and wine industry showed that it contributes $4.8 billion to the New York State economy every year, supporting the equivalent of 25,000 full-time jobs, paying over $408 million in taxes, and generating over 5.2 million wine-related tourism visits. The Finger Lakes region, in particular, has gained increasing prominence as home to world-class wines, with many wineries earning awards in national and international competitions. Governor Cuomo highlighted the success of the industry at his 2013 Governor’s Cup Wine Competition in Watkins Glen, exactly where the gas storage facility is being proposed for location and this past summer, a Seneca Lake winery won the 2014 Governor’s Cup.
The region has become so widely known for its winemaking that vintners from the international community have begun to invest in the area as well.
The Finger Lakes is also considered a world-class tourism destination, with Shermans Travel naming it the #1 Lake Vacation in the world last year.
In addition to the over-industrialization such a storage facility would cause, salt cavern storage is historically unsafe. It presents the potential for explosive accidents and water contamination along the Finger Lakes. Salt cavern storage represents only a small percentage of gas storage facilities, but is responsible for the majority of instances of catastrophic failure. In 2001, gas migrated 7 miles from a salt cavern storage facility in Kansas, came up in abandoned brine wells and exploded, killing two people, destroying buildings and evacuating residents. There are many such abandoned brine wells just three miles from the proposed facility in downtown Watkins Glen, NY.