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‘Wine, Not Brine’ group hires ‘Love Canal’ lawyer

GLENORA, May 18—A newly formed business alliance - opposing the proposed Kansas City, Mo.-based Inergy Corporation project to store liquid propane gas in salt caverns three miles north of Watkins Glen – announced this week it has hired a well-known attorney to look into ways to stop the project.
Attorney Richard Lippes of Buffalo, best-known for his successful litigation on behalf of homeowners in the Love Canal case, has been hired and is reviewing documents.
“This is an investment to protect our assets,” Lou Damiani, owner of Damiani Wine Cellars said. “We don’t want them (Inergy) to make this the hub of northeast gas distribution.”
The announcement came as part of two meetings of business owners – one at Damiani’s Tuesday, the second at Glenora Wine Cellars on Wednesday – to consider the impacts of Inergy’s proposal to store 88 million gallons of liquid propane in salt caverns on the corporation’s 620-acre site on Route 14A. A new 6-track railroad siding to load and upload 24 railroad cars per day would be constructed as part of the project as well as bays for the loading and unloading of propane trucks.  The proposal also calls for the construction of a 14-acre, 91-million gallon brine pond on the hill overlooking Seneca Lake.
The meeting at Damiani’s drew about 100 people. At Glenora, about 75 people attended.
“This is not anti-business,” Damiani said. “We want economic development, too. But this is not a business that is going to help our businesses.”
The Inergy proposal, currently going through a second round of environmental review by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, says construction costs would be about $40 million and require the temporary hiring of 50 persons, with eventually eight to 10 fulltime employees on site once propane is being stored.
In contrast, Damiani said, tourism-related business accounts for closer to half a billion dollars annually in revenues in the Schuyler, Seneca, Ontario, and Yates County areas, with another $20 million in local taxes and $19 million in state taxes collected per year.
In the wine industry alone, he said, the 45 firms classified as wineries, employed more than 1,000 people and paid wages of approximately $24.5 million in 2010.
Presentations at both meetings focused on a variety of perceived problems and that Inergy has made it clear that the remaining 60 or so unused salt caverns on the site are likely to be used for additional storage of LPG or natural gas. Inergy has published reports that it intends to use the facility as a major storage and transportation facility to serve all of the northeastern United States.
“Inergy’s initial permit application is small,” Joseph Campbell of the organization GasFreeSeneca said in a presentation. “Their future plan is massive. This is their foot in the door and just the beginning of massive industrialization of the Finger Lakes.”
The presenters at the two meetings agreed that the potential for industrialization may force the communities of the Finger Lakes to decide between an economy based on tourism and agriculture, or one based on an industrial model.
The decision whether the project will be allowed to move forward rests in the hands of the town of Reading and the state DEC at this point, Campbell and the organizers of the meetings said.
On April 28, the DEC labeled a draft environmental impact statement submitted by Inergy Corporation  “inadequate,” and asked for more information about possible accidents and responses, noise from trains, trucks and compressors - and asked questions about the brine pond.
Jessica Rodgers, co-owner of Two Goats Brewery in Hector, said she is concerned about long-term impacts but also the potential for a catastrophic event such as a propane explosion or fire, a train derailment over the Watkins Glen gorge or the brine pond dam breaking with millions of gallons of salty water running into nearby Seneca Lake.
“Why would we take the risk?” she asked.
Organizers said that about $9,000 was raised between the two meetings to cover initial legal costs.

 

 

 


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