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State hears more support, criticism of Inergy project

WATKINS GLENThe proposed $40 million Inergy, LLC, gas storage and transfer facility in Reading continued to receive both criticism and support in the second New York State Department of Environmental Conservation public hearing, Thursday, Nov. 3.
A smaller crowd of around 300 people gathered for the hearing continuation, which this time was started earlier in the evening at the Watkins Glen high school auditorium.  The DEC staff limited speakers to no more than five minutes and started with the people who did not get a chance to speak at the Tuesday, Sept. 27, comment session.  The staff then accepted comments from new speakers who showed up at the Nov. 3 hearing.  David Bimbar, deputy regional permit administrator for DEC, said the state has received 350 written letters already and will continue to accept comments until Nov. 14.  
Joseph Porco, owner of Porco Energy in the Hudson Valley and president of the New York Propane Gas Association, was the first speaker.  He said propane is a home-grown energy source and can be used to reduce dependence on foreign oil.  He added allowing the construction of this facility would improve infrastructure, taking pressure from demand off of other stations in the system.
"Most of us who market to homeowners are small 'mom and pop' companies, not big corporations," said Porco.  "Our goal is to supply low cost gas."
Phil Squair, a representative for an advocacy group called the National Propane Gas Association, said the "total demand (for propane) in the state far outstrips local supply."  He explained this would improve availability as more residents are moving to cleaner burning fuels like propane.
Owner of Sungas Phelps, Roland Penta, also gave his support for the project.  He said if stations like the Finger Lakes facility were completed, the country would become independent from foreign oil.  He added the area is conducive to the storage of natural gas as three such facilities already exist.
"I'm confident it will eliminate the historical trucking this area experiences," Penta said.
William Young, one of the managers of Superior Energy Systems, spoke about the national safety standards and the criteria the project meets.   He said Superior Energy Systems is the company hired to construct the Inergy facility in Reading.  He added that the designs meet all the operating standards currently in place.
Bob Fitzsimmons, Hector resident, was one of the people who spoke against the project.  He addressed some of the comments brought up by the project's proponents earlier in the meeting.  
"We do adequately already meet our propane needs.  We did last year.  I know because I dispatched the trucks that delivered the propane," said Fitzsimmons.  He added that while residents do use propane, they also use wood, wood pellets, solar, and wind as well.
Hammondsport Attorney Rachel Treichler said the state's draft rules do not address how the unique characteristics of this region affect storing gas.  She said it is true gas is currently being stored in the salt caverns, but commented the Inergy proposal is for storing more propane than the current levels.  Treichler said the company hasn't done an adequate quantitative risk analysis either.  
"It calls into questions some of the legitimacy of the DEC.  They're supposed to be protecting us from environmental harm," she said.
Jacqueline Leidenfrost, owner of Rustic Log Cabins in Hector, said people come to the area for the beauty and natural resources.  She said, "often guests tell me how much they look forward to coming back here.  The entire Finger Lakes region is a haven for all who come here."  Leidenfrost said everything could be ruined by possible accidents, spills, and explosions.  
Bo Lipari, Hector resident, addressed proponents who say this type of storage is already being done in the state.  He countered that there is no current comparable storage facility in the Finger Lakes.  Lipari said the proposed Reading site is 74 times larger than the existing TEPPCO facility.
"Tourism is our future, not gas," he ended by saying.



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