Village officials listen to gas storage comments
WATKINS GLEN – Opponents of a proposed liquid propane gas storage and transportation facility north of Watkins Glen packed the Village of Watkins Trustees’ meeting Monday night to hear a presentation by chemical engineer Chuck Sorenson.
Sorensen formerly designed and managed high-volume LPG units for Mobil Oil (now Exxon Mobil). He also analyzed the offsite consequences of accidental releases of LPG.
In a 10-minute presentation, he outlined what he believes are serious flaws in the plan by the Kansas-City, MO based Inergy Corporation to store 88-million gallons of LPG in salt caverns, build a new 6-track railroad transportation siding to load and unload 24 propane tank cars per day, and construct a 14-acre, 91-million gallon open brine pond.
He said he is especially concerned that Inergy has not presented any kind of hazards analysis of the project, currently being reviewed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
“Inergy has limited experience with a project of this scale,” Sorensen said. “Inergy has plans to do a hazards analysis only after the project receives approval.”
Sorensen is particularly worried because the 640-acre site slopes toward Seneca Lake.
“A propane leak could float down the hill and with prevailing winds, bring it right into Watkins,” he said. “If something like that is released and got out onto the lake, I don’t know how you would stop it.”
Also speaking was Lou Damiani, owner of Damiani Wine Cellars in Hector, part of an area-wide business coalition concerned that the industrial nature of the project – and the potential for serious incidents, such fires, explosions or truck accidents – would hurt tourism in the entire area.
“If there is any major mishap, there will be no fixing it,” Damiani said. “We are a pro-business coalition, but this will hurt us.”
While most of discussion focused on potential problems, David Crea, an engineer with US Salt (owned by Inergy) said opponents are misrepresenting the project.
He told trustees that the 8-10 permanent jobs projected for the LPG storage site are “industrial jobs” offering good salaries and benefits.
“Each industrial job is worth 10 of your winery jobs,” he said.
Crea also cautioned the trustees about accepting what the Gas Free Seneca coalition presented.
“You would be wise not to be sucked into this Ithaca-based fanaticism,” Crea said.
Thursday, the Inergy Corporation has scheduled closed-door meetings with some local businesses to talk about the project. The meetings are being arranged by the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development.
Inergy Corporation has proposed to SCOPED that instead of paying taxes, it should do a payment in lieu of taxes, a process known as PILOT in New York.
In that proposal – included in the documents filed with the state DEC – Inergy would make a payment of $440,000 per year to be divided among Schuyler County, the Town of Reading and the school district.
SCOPED would be paid a one-time administrative fee of $290,000.