Thursday, February 11, 2016
Contact: Joseph Campbell: 607-769-4639, Muchado2@gmail.com
For Immediate Release
Coalitions Travel to Albany on Year Anniversary of DEC Issues Conference with Concerns about Gas Storage in the Finger Lakes
Elected Officials, Finger Lakes Wine Business Coalition (FLXWBC), 1199SEIU Healthcare Workers East, Gas Free Seneca Call on Governor to Deny LPG Facility
ALBANY – A broad and diverse coalition in opposition to a proposed massive liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and natural gas (methane) storage and transport facility in the heart of the Finger Lakes travelled to Albany on the year anniversary of the DEC’s Issues Conference. The growth of the opposition to Texas-based Crestwood Midstream’s plan to turn depleted salt mines along Seneca Lake, two miles north of Watkins Glen, into a major methane, propane and butane storage/ transport hub for the Northeastern United States has been exponential since last year’s Issues Conference. In 2015, there were 217 businesses opposed to Crestwood, and there are over 400 today. 12 Finger Lakes municipalities were represented at the Issues Conference, and now 31 municipalities, representing1.2 Million New Yorkers, have registered opposition. Finger Lakes Wine Country is poised to lead the way toward Governor Cuomo’s renewable energy plan, and the agri-tourism industry in the region is booming. In light of this growth and recent national disasters, leaders have come to Albany to implore Governor Cuomo not to let the Finger Lakes of New York become the next Porter Ranch or Flint, Michigan.
The groups are:
Finger Lakes Wine Business Coalition (FLXWBC) (see http://flxwbc.com/ )
1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East (see http://www.1199seiu.org/ )
Elected Officials throughout the Region (see https://gasfreeseneca.com/?page_id=493)
Gas Free Seneca (GFS) (see https://gasfreeseneca.com/ )
Yvonne Taylor, Vice President of Gas Free Seneca and Seneca Lake Guardian, a Waterkeeper Affiliate, representing over 360 Finger Lakes businesses, municipalities throughout the region, and thousands of Finger Lakes residents, said, “We are here today to thank the Governor for his long-standing support of the Finger Lakes, a region that we are all extremely proud of. We implore the Governor to take a precautionary approach that evaluates the independent science, and the potential negative impacts to our economy, the environment and public health when making a decision about this ill-conceived plan. While we are still awaiting a decision by the Administrative Law Judge who presided over the Issues Conference last year, we recognize that in the end, the decision ultimately lies with Governor Cuomo. We believe, particularly in light of the ongoing disasters in Porter Ranch, California, Flint Michigan, and even more recently at Indian Point, that a similar fate in the heart of the Finger Lakes can only be avoided by denying all permits to Crestwood and its subsidiaries.”
31 Municipalities, representing 1.2 Million New York residents, have drafted resolutions and letters of concern to Governor Cuomo opposing Crestwood Midstream’s project.
Robert Camera, Geneva City Council, 4th Ward, said,” We know from independent studies that the only way to ensure that storing LPG and natural gas in salt caverns, on a geologic fault line, adjacent to the drinking water source of 100,000 people does not put the public health and safety at risk, is to ensure that these gas storage projects never go forward in the first place. As the people’s risk manager of last resort, the State of New York should learn from the mistakes of others, or we are destined to repeat them.”
Michael Lausell is a Schuyler County Legislator in the county where the project is to be constructed. Train traffic carrying explosive propane and butane across an 80 year old trestle that spans the Watkins Glen Gorge would increase from 9 rail cars per year to nearly 2,000. “The Watkins Glen State Park attracts over 700,000 visitors a year. The rail line crosses over the park at the North Entrance where visitors descend into the gorge to enjoy the sculpted rock formations and waterfalls along trails that lead to the East Entrance of the park and the center of the Village of Watkins Glen. Any accident at the trestle would have catastrophic consequences. Most recently, the Finger Lakes State Park Regional Commission has passed a resolution expressing their concerns over the impact to visitors and to the park itself,” said Lausell.
Todd Hobler, Vice President of the 1199 Service Employees International Union, which represents over 300,000 healthcare workers across New York State, including thousands of nursing home and hospital workers in the Finger Lakes Region, said, “The chief argument of proponents of the gas storage project is that it will bring jobs to a region that needs them. This is a weak argument at best. Even the most generous claims put the total number of permanent jobs created by Crestwood at 17. Most estimates are half that amount. Meanwhile, the number of jobs in the $2.8 billion wine and tourist industries throughout the Finger Lakes number 58,000. How many of these jobs would be lost if Crestwood succeeds in industrializing the shores of Seneca Lake near Watkins Glen?”
Paula Fitzsimmons of Damiani Wine Cellars (FLXWBC, GFS member) has also been a Physician Assistant for 30 years in Schuyler County. Fitzsimmons stated, “I implore Governor Cuomo to heed the alarm over the LPG storage project on Seneca Lake. Our drinking water is imperiled by this project and we cannot wait for a catastrophe to occur. The high salinity of this lake corresponds with pressurized gas storage in the past; the current levels of sodium already deem this lake impaired for at risk populations to use as a drinking water source. Our independent expert hydro geologist warns that re-pressurizing those caverns again with gas storage would cause a similar salinity spike, making the drinking water for 100,000 people undrinkable. We cannot risk any further burden to Seneca Lake.”
Rick Rainey (FLXWBC, GFS) is Co-founder of Forge Cellars. Since its inception in 2011, Forge Cellars has invested a million dollars into the local economy and is moving forward to invest another $1 million in building a new winery and planting grapes this spring (2016). The 3 partners of Forge Cellars, which include internationally-recognized winemaker, Louis Barruol of the Rhone Valley in France, strongly condemn the dangerous idea of storing gas under Seneca Lake. Forge Cellars now distributes wine in 20 states and has opened up markets in 4 countries with plans for more international distribution. Rainey said, “Wineries have the utmost interest in helping New York achieve its goals of reducing carbon emissions, as we depend on pure air, soil and water to grow our businesses. We are natural caretakers of the land, always working with a long-term approach that in turn, feeds tourism and the economy. Forge Cellars is building a new production facility which will use solar power and sustainable energy practices. These plans to use clean, renewable energy rather than dirty fossil fuels translate into increased employment in the region. For example, we are contracting with Renovus Energy, a local solar company that experienced a 725% employment increase in 2015; these are sustainable jobs for a healthy economy, not just a few transient gas industry jobs.”
Tina Hazlitt, Sawmill Creek Vineyards (FLXWBC, GFS) represented her family’s 3 wineries; Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, Red Cat Cellars, and Hector Wine Company. The combined businesses employ over 100 workers. Hazlitt stated, “The Hazlitt family has strived for decades to finally realize the quality reputation of Finger Lakes wines as well as the world wide accolades of our entire region. The gas storage project on and under Seneca Lake is a direct threat to everything 7 generations of our family have built. One look at what has been happening at Porter Ranch in California, the 1000’s displaced from their homes, and the environmental disaster that will not be fully understood for some time, tells us that gas storage issues can and will happen. Plus, the incidents of gas storage in salt caverns, as proposed on Seneca Lake, already have the highest level of failure.”
Meanwhile Crestwood’s subsidiary, Arlington Natural Gas, has requested that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) grant them an extension for natural gas storage expansion on the same Seneca Lake site. Justin Boyette, co-owner and wine maker of Hector Wine Company and Forge Cellars, said, “We urge the Governor to request that FERC not issue the extension to Arlington. While the Porter Ranch disaster is from leakage in a depleted oil well in porous sandstone, our independent expert states that salt cavern storage facilities are 20 times more likely to have accidents than the wells in Porter Ranch, due to the corrosive nature of salt. Given the track record of gas storage in salt caverns and the ongoing disaster in Porter Ranch, which was supposedly a safer storage venue, we believe that the Governor should weigh in on this request with FERC and ask them to deny Arlington’s expansion request. We cannot afford these risks to the multi-billion dollar wine and Craft beverage industry surrounding the Finger Lakes.”
Finger Lakes Wine Country has positioned itself as an economically sustainable, world-class tourist destination with a vision for continued development that does not include dirty industry. The groups represented today thank Governor Cuomo for his time-honored support of the region, and urge him to continue his backing by denying all permits to Crestwood and its subsidiaries.