Groups Condemn Schuyler County Legislature for Premature Resolution Supporting Gas Storage


For Immediate Release

August 8, 2016 Watkins Glen, NY

Groups Condemn Schuyler County Legislature for Premature Resolution Supporting Gas Storage

Gas Free Seneca, FLXWBC and SLPWA Urge County, Crestwood and DEC to Complete Legal Procedures

At their regularly scheduled meeting Monday, August 8th, the Schuyler County Legislature plans to vote and pass a resolution reaffirming support of the proposed Crestwood Equity Partner’s subsidiary Finger Lakes LPG’s gas storage project on the west side of Seneca Lake in Reading, NY.

The resolution  states that the “Schuyler County Legislature… has sought modifications to the original scope of the project” which would include: the elimination of butane storage, elimination of rail transport and related infrastructure, elimination of the truck depot and truck transport, elimination of the brine pond on the lake side of Route 14, and provision of resources to monitor and improve Seneca Lake water quality.

According to Gas Free Seneca, FLXWBC and SLPWA private negotiations between Crestwood and the Schuyler County Legislature are not enforceable and the groups urge Crestwood to submit a formal amendment of its application so that the changed terms can be memorialized in binding permit conditions subject to review and comment.

“Crestwood’s secret proposals to change the project are effective admissions that we were right about the original proposal all along:  it’s not safe, it threatens the Watkins Glen State Park, it’s too noisy and ugly, and it’s generally inconsistent with the character and brand of the Seneca Lake communities,” said Joseph Campbell, President of Gas Free Seneca. “If Crestwood wishes to make these welcomed changes, it should submit a formal amendment of its application, and the DEC should revise the draft SEIS and the draft permit conditions so that the public can understand the full project impacts and so that Crestwood has enforceable obligations to implement the changes it describes in the amended application. Anything short of that is nothing but smoke and mirrors.   We can’t hold Crestwood accountable for pledges that it won’t make formally under the law,” he added.

The adopted resolution states that the issuance by the DEC of a draft storage permit in 2014 is one reason the legislature supports the project.  “What the legislature fails to comprehend is that in an ongoing legal process with a DEC appointed Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), the validity of that storage permit is being called into question as we speak”, said Mary Anne Kowalski of SLPWA.  DEC cannot issue the permit without state geologist approval, but as SLPWA recently learned and disclosed, there has been no official appointment of a state geologist since 2010.  A supposed approval from 2013 appears to have been unauthorized, and the ALJ  has acknowledged that lack of authorized approval is grounds for denial of the permit. “The legislature should not take action until the ongoing judicial process is complete”, said Kowalski.

The ALJ is also in the process of considering a multitude of highly technical information presented by independent experts from across the country.  There are additional issues, such as cavern integrity and a potential spike in the salinity level of Seneca Lake, which Crestwood is not addressing in their recent offerings.   “If any action is to be considered by the county, it should be that the Schuyler County Legislature revoke its original endorsement of the project and reconsider a revised resolution contingent upon completion of the process before the ALJ and revision of the permit conditions to ensure that the changes are permanent and binding.  Supporting a project based on nothing more than FLLPG’s say-so, before the ALJ issues a decision and without enforceable permit conditions, violates the legislature’s fiduciary duties to the people they represent,” added Campbell.

The groups maintain that the legislature has also failed to consider that if Crestwood makes the proposed changes, they will likely sue to  have their property tax assessment reduced (as they have in the past, resulting in a $7 million reduction in assessed value), providing  even less revenue to the county.  The changes would also greatly reduce the number of jobs created by the project.  And yet, the risk of cavern collapse, fire, explosion, pollution, negative impact on climate change, and a spike in the salinity of our drinking water all remain.  “So we are still being asked to accept the risks inherent in gas storage and transport, but with even less benefit to the county”, said Campbell

Crestwood and DEC also should inform the ALJ that Crestwood is materially changing the project and urge him not to issue any decision about an adjudicatory hearing until the amended application, revised DSEIS, and revised permit conditions are filed officially and made available for public comment.

Further, the groups argue that the statement in the resolution, “the Project, if approved will ensure a redundant supply of propane for local businesses and residents, helping to meet our current and future energy needs,” is categorically false.  In a Transportation Allocation Letter  Crestwood has represented to the ALJ that all of the propane will be sent via pipeline to Selkirk, NY where it is destined for New England and potentially further export.  The elimination of the truck depot further cements that fact.

According to Crestwood’s own statistics there is no need for additional storage in the Finger Lakes:

3 Facilities already exist within a 60 mile radius of Watkins Glen, NY that store 3.5 million barrels of propane, enough to heat 600,000 homes. In New York, only 225,000 homes rely on propane for heat. 100% of the propane stored at this facility will leave by pipeline and go to a supply terminal in Selkirk, NY that serves New England and the Mid-Atlantic states.

The groups point to Schuyler County Legislative Chair Dennis Fagan’s quote: “During the past two winters, which were quite severe, the Enterprise facility was able to meet the propane needs of the region.” (Odessa File  Nov. 19, 2015) as further evidence that there is no need for more storage.

“The bottom line is that the Finger Lakes Region does not need to be the sacrifice zone for gas industry export, it will not significantly benefit the region, we are being asked to accept all of the risk with none of the reward, and Crestwood must work within the guidelines of the legal process rather than make unenforceable behind-the-scenes overtures to people who might exert influence on local governments”, said Will Ouweleen, Secretary of the FLXWBC.