Opposition grows to gas facility
WATKINS GLEN—A panel of professionals and residents raised economic and environmental concerns, Thursday, April 14, about the proposed $40 million gas storage and transfer facility in Reading.
The meeting was held one day after the project’s parent company Inergy, LLC held a meeting of its own. Inergy wants to store propane and butane in two underground salt caverns. The overriding concerns expressed Thursday were about the environmental impact of the project and the impact of industrialization on the Finger Lakes overall. Around 300 people attended the forum.
John Halfman, Hobart and William Smith Professor, spoke about the salt levels of Seneca Lake. He explained currently Seneca Lake has the highest salinity level of all the finger lakes: just over 80 parts per million compared to 15 to 35 parts per million for the rest of the Finger Lakes.
Halfman said he has looked at streams feeding into Seneca Lake, but that does not account for the high levels. He explained the lake does cut through a rock salt bed. He added he believes the salt is coming up from the bottom of the lake, from the salt rock layer. Halfman said the lake’s salt levels started going up about 100 years ago, when companies also started mining for salt in the area. Halfman added the salt levels peaked in the 1960s and 1970s and have decreased since then.
Halfman said use of the salt caverns might push out more salt into the lake, or possibly the gas. He also suggested Inergy pay for a study to done about the salt levels if they are sure there is no problem.
Thomas Shelley, retired Cornell University environmental health, safety, and hazardous materials expert, explained people do make mistakes so there is no guaranteeing any project will be free of accidents or spills. Jack Ossont, representative for the Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes, showed a few videos of worse case scenarios where train cars with gas exploded. He added these instances are very rare. Shelley listed a number of spills and leaks that happened in Watkins Glen from the late 1990s and early 2000s. He said Walter Hang, creator of Toxics Targeting, compiled the list.
Karen Edelstein, geographic information systems consultant, provided maps she created that show the proximity of the project to existing pipeline infrastructure and 115 storage wells in northern Schuyler County. The project would hook into the pipeline near the proposed location.
The final speaker was Yvonne Taylor, who owns property on Seneca Lake, almost opposite of the proposed project. She said Inergy Midstream Vice President Bill Moler said the company was our neighbor. However, upon asking each of the representatives, Taylor said none live in Schuyler County and most live outside of the state.
“I stand here as your neighbor,” she said. Taylor added at the end of her segment, “This is your call to action.”
Some of the speakers also tried to link this proposed project to the Marcellus Shale drilling industry. However, Bill Moler, senior vice president of Inergy Midstream, explained at the previous meeting that Inergy does not drill for natural gas. It is only an energy storage and transportation company.