Gas storage project is one step closer
READING--Crestwood LLC has won a battle that finds it one step closer to storing liquid propane gas (LPG) in salt caverns at Seneca Lake. The battle is currently awaiting a decision from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The Chief Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) James McClymonds has issued a 75-page decision stating they have seen all the evidence needed and hearings will not be required to move forward with the decision on whether or not to store millions of gallons of LPG under Seneca Lake. This comes in direct conflict with protests from Gas Free Seneca, Finger Lakes Wine Business Coalition (FLXWBC), the Seneca Lake Communities and Seneca Lake Pure Water Association.
The ruling is subject to appeal to DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos.
Sean Mahar, a spokesman for the DEC said, "The commissioner has the ability to adopt, modify or reject the ALJ's ruling in whole or in part."
Joseph Campbell, president of Gas Free Seneca, says the group will be expected to file an appeal on Oct. 20. Campbell said, "The communities, families and businesses of the Finger Lakes have fought hard and have waited long enough. Soon, the ultimate decision will be in Governor (Andrew) Cuomo's hands. We trust that, in light of his legacy to promote wine and tourism in the region and reduce the use of climate damaging fossil fuels, he will side with the people of the Finger Lakes, not a Texas gas corporation. Moreover, the integrity of the storage caverns are much more in doubt than the ALJ acknowledged, and the consequences of a breach could be catastrophic for the immediate and broader Seneca Lake communities and population. Any cavern breach or other major failure at the facility would irreparably impair the character of the Seneca Lake communities for years into the future. To top it all off, the safety of the project has not been approved by the state geologist, as the law requires."
Opponents to this project have pushed Gov. Cuomo's DEC to reject this idea on the basis that it has garnered opposition from 32 municipalities in over seven counties containing 1.2 million residents.
Gas Free Seneca addresses concerns about the safety and potential risks. "According to an industry insider report ('Gas Storage and Single-Point Failure Risk' by John M. Hopper), there were 407 underground gas storage facilities (propane and natural gas) in operation in 2002 in the U.S., and only 29 (or 7 percent) of these were salt cavern storage facilities. Yet salt cavern storage was responsible for 100 percent of all catastrophic failures between 1972 and 2004. Dr. Robert Mackenzie, retired CEO of Cayuga Medical Center, performed a Quantitative Risk Analysis for the LPG project and determined the likelihood of an LPG disaster of serious or extremely serious consequence within the county in the next twenty-five years is greater than 40 percent."
Vice president of Gas Free Seneca, Yvonne Taylor, said, "In the two and a half years that have gone by since the ALJ presided over the Issues Conference, Crestwood has in fact opened a facility in Montgomery, New York, which they have advertised as 'sufficient to serve the entire northeast in the coldest winter.' They've also received a permit to expand LPG storage in their Savona facility, making the Seneca Lake project completely unnecessary. This would have been the perfect opportunity for Crestwood to be a responsible corporate citizen and gracefully bow out of an extremely unpopular project. Instead, it simply responded that, other than the Savona facility, it neither owned nor had options on salt caverns within 30 miles of the project site. We absolutely refuse to let this dirty and dangerous gas storage project destroy everything that the people of the Finger Lakes have worked so hard to build, and we will continue to fight this project every step of the way."
Other concerns were addressed on the group's Facebook page. "Schuyler County Health Care professionals are concerned about expected increases in asthma cases, pre-term births, low birth weight, and learning disabilities as well as air quality. Activity at Crestwood's facility and the upsurge in truck traffic will dramatically increase the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are known to be particularly harmful to grapevines. Massive industrial lights, noise, emissions and road hazards from the compressors, trains, and trucks at the center of a tourist region will also be a concern."
The Finger Lakes Wine Business Coalition was formed in 2014 in an effort to protect the region from environmental hazards. They currently represent over 100 agriculture and tourism-based businesses in the area. The Finger Lakes attracts over 4.5 million visitors each year, according to the group.
Secretary of the FLXWBC said, "The Finger Lakes is a national treasure, the only wine region in the world identifiable from space, and it should be preserved and protected, not sacrificed as a convenient dump for LPG. We trust the DEC Commissioner Seggos will deny the permit to avoid the potentially devastating impacts of this ill-conceived project, including its threat to Gov. Cuomo's economic development efforts."
As the date for an appeal approaches on Oct. 20, Crestwood LLC has no official statement on their website.