Gas storage opponents travel to Albany
ALBANY—Dozens of Finger Lakes winery and business owners went to Albany Wednesday, July 30, to call on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to protect the region’s wine industry and tourism by denying permits for a proposed gas storage facility along Seneca Lake in Watkins Glen.
“Governor Cuomo has been a great supporter of New York’s wineries and the Finger Lakes, but this proposed gas facility threatens our future growth and place as the Napa of the Northeast,” said Doug Hazlitt, a sixth generation Finger Lakes vintner and owner of Hazlitt 1852 Winery. “We need Governor Cuomo’s support now to protect the health of our region and the very things that make it great—the local businesses, renowned wine, and our way of life.”
The wineries are part of the 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 in regard to the threat it poses to one of the state’s largest supplies of drinking water, the local economy, and the area’s growing wine and tourism industry.
“There is widespread opposition throughout the Finger Lakes to this dangerous proposal—it crosses political affiliation and views, with a clear understanding of what is at stake,” said Steve Churchill, a member of the Seneca Board of Supervisors. “Hundreds of businesses and thousands of residents don’t want their health and drinking water jeopardized or their way of life trampled on by the hazardous over-industrialization this Texas-based corporation would bring to the Finger Lakes.”
A recent report on the state’s grape and wine industry showed 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 several wineries earning awards in national and international competitions. 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.
“There is no justification for jeopardizing the Finger Lakes’ place as an international destination for world-class agri-tourism,” said Lou Damiani, owner of Damiani Wine Cellars. “There is no propane shortage and we have worked too hard to get where we are now. We won’t let the Finger Lakes region become the sacrifice zone for the gas industry and risk losing everything.”
A decision on whether or not to grant a permit for the proposed facility will be determined by Cuomo and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
“Gas storage facilities threaten to contaminate one of the state’s largest drinking supplies and the likelihood of an accident at a facility like this is far too high,” said Rob Mackenzie, retired president and CEO of Cayuga Medical Center. “Finger Lakes residents do not want to gamble with our health and safety for a facility that we know will detrimentally impact our local economy and way of life.”