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Legislature opposes gas project

YATES COUNTY--The Yates County Legislature has voted to request the state withhold approval for Crestwood's proposed salt cavern gas storage plans in Schuyler County. More than 50 people attended the Tuesday, Oct. 14 meeting where the legislature voted to take a stronger stance against the proposed liquid petroleum gas (LPG) storage project in the Schuyler County town of Reading. The county had previously sent a letter to the state expressing their concerns about the project, but had not taken an official stance until Tuesday night. Legislators Leslie Church and Dan Banach were the only two votes in opposition.
"Seneca Lake belongs to all of us," Legislator Robert Clark said. "The Finger Lakes are a beautiful area and we need to do what we can to protect them."
The resolution cites the legislature's concerns with the geologic stability of the salt caverns to be used for LPG storage, the threat of large amounts of salt water entering Seneca Lake and the threat of LPG seepage from the caverns. The resolution requests the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) "withhold approval of any plan for mass storage of LPG adjacent to or under Seneca Lake and exercise its power in assisting in determining a more appropriate location for any such storage site."
Some 13 residents spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, all of whom opposed the gas storage project. Owner of Hunt Country Vineyards Art Hunt spoke about the salinity of Seneca Lake increasing since the initial storage of gas in salt caverns in 1964. He said there is higher risk of a "catastrophic failure" in storing gas in salt caverns since they were not specifically designed to store gas.
Dundee resident Janet Meaney expressed her concerns about the alleged increase in truck traffic having a negative impact on the health of the region. Branchport resident Peter Gamba said he does not believe the gas company has properly assessed the risk involved in such a project.
Co-Founder of Gas Free Seneca Joseph Campbell said having the project go through would threaten the tourism and agriculture businesses around Seneca Lake, adding some 59 winery owners sent a letter to the state asking them to not approve the LPG storage plans, many of them being Yates County wineries. Jerusalem resident Tim Cutler said opening up the salt mines for gas storage would severely threaten the drinking water for more than 100,000 people around the lake, adding the current salinity of Seneca Lake is "close to the undrinkable threshold already."
"This is not a vote for Gas Free Seneca or against Schuyler County, but it is a vote for Seneca Lake," Legislator Bill Holgate said.
Legislators Doug Paddock and Mark Morris said they had each received several emails and calls from the public regarding the issue, with less than 10 comments between them being in support of the project, while more than 100 were against the project. Legislator Elden Morrison said he has heard "overwhelming" opposition to the proposed storage from around the lake, adding he is reluctant to vote against the wishes of the county.
Church said she was unable to support the resolution at this time as she does not believe the legislature has done enough research to make a proper decision, adding she feels the state will do a proper job scrutinizing the proposed project before coming to a decision.
"This issue is too important to be emotional, rushed or confused with gas drilling," Church said. "I feel we have not done enough research at this point to make a judgment on the project."

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