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Inergy tries to get local project support

    WATKINS GLEN—Officials of Inergy Corporation, the Kansas-City, Mo. based company seeking state and local officials’ approval to store approximately 88 million gallons of LPG in salt caverns north of the village held two closed-door sessions with local businesses and individuals last Thursday, June 9 in Watkins Glen. The company wanted to make  their case for the proposed $40 million dollar gas storage facility in Reading.
    As part of the project, Inergy also wants to build a six-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.
    The meetings—held in the offices of the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development—coincided with Inergy’s filing a response last week to questions posed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
    The DEC said April 28 that a draft environmental impact statement submitted by Inergy was inadequate and asked for information about possible accidents and responses, noise from trains, trucks and compressors—and the brine pond.
    The two meetings, held at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., included presentations by Inergy’s Bill Moler and other company representatives as well as questions from the business owners.
    Lou Damiani, owner of Damiani Wine Cellars, said he felt a little “placated” when he initially came out of his meeting.
    “It’s clear that these people are not getting into something in which they think they are going to have an accident,” he said.
    But on reflection, Damiani said he believes nothing has changed in his concerns about safety and the possible negative effects the project could have on tourism.
    Damiani is a member of the group GasFreeSeneca that is opposing the salt-cavern storage facility and has been building a business coalition, now with 68 members.
    “There are still many unanswered questions,” he said. “Like growth. Nobody gets into business thinking the business will flat-line and not grow.”
While media were excluded at Inergy’s request from the meetings, Moler and Inergy representatives did answer questions later, addressing safety, potential growth and the company’s determination to get the project approved by the DEC and the town of Reading, which holds the final approval.
    “We like to talk about keeping the propane in the pipe, in the caverns,” Moler said. “The whole design is about safety and risk mitigated.”
    Moler said that the brine pond, which will have a double liner and sensors to detect any problems, is likewise designed well.
    “Is it going to leak? No, because it’s a safely designed facility.”
    The current proposal calls for using two salt caverns on the property owned by U.S. Salt (purchased by Inergy in 2008) to store 2.1 million barrels of LPG and possibly natural gas.
If Inergy decides to expand LPG storage in the future, Moler said Inergy will go through the same application processes to get approval.
    “We are investing a lot of money in this,” Moler said.
At the meetings with businesses, several persons asked if the company would be willing to do a formal “qualitative risk assessment,” a process in which an independent firm looks at a project and weighs all the potential risks.
    In addition to safety matters, such a study can include economic factors, too.
    At the meetings, Moler said that Inergy would consider doing a QRA study, but did not commit, according to Damiani.
    In their latest filing with the DEC, Inergy officials deleted a reference to SCOPED and the Schuyler County Industrial Development Authority. The initial reference indicated Inergy had been in discussions with SCIDA and SCOPED about the possibility of SCOPED receiving an administrative fee of $290,000. Moler said that amount was discussed, but it shouldn't have been a part of the DSEIS document. 
The discussions also looked at the possibility of Inergy paying $440,000 per year in lieu of taxes. The PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) discussion was the section of the filing with the DEC on potential economic benefits to the region, including 8-10 permanent jobs at the site and increased employment in the railroad and trucking industry.
    The DEC has 30-days to review the latest filing by Inergy. If it is satisfied all the questions have been answered, a public comment period will follow.


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