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Protesters arrested at gas storage site in Finger Lakes

A number of protestors were arrested for blockading the entrance to a natural gas storage facility in the Finger Lakes region early Monday.

Cornell students, local residents and biologist and author Sandra Steingraber, were arrested for trespassing after preventing workers from entering the Inergy facility on Route 14.

The group says the Watkins Glen facility, owned by Kansas City company Inergy, is one of several hydrofracking infrastructure projects that have been allowed to “slip in the back door” in New York while a moratorium on the practice has been in place.

Long-running dispute

Inergy has spent four years trying to secure an underground storage permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), to use two salt caves along Seneca Lake for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) storage.

Protestors argue that the project would also support natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale region. They linked arms and deployed a banner reading “Our Future is Unfractured, We Are Greater Than Dirty Inergy” across the entrance to the facility Monday morning before being given warnings by local police, and finally being arrested.

LPG usually refers to propane, butane, or a mixture of the two gases.

In a written statement, Inergy said that their facility was for the storage of propane, used for heating and cooling local homes, and that gas had been safely stored in the area for more than 40 years.

"For the planned LPG (propane) storage facility, the company has filed the DEC permits for storing propane only. There would not be the opportunity to swap out the type of commodity stored in a cavern."

The Inergy website says that the Watkins Glen site has the capacity to store five million barrels of LPG.

Concern remains over any gas storage

Groups opposing the project argue that storage of gas in a geologically unstable environment could lead to contamination of Seneca Lake, a source of drinking water for nearly 100,000 people in the region.

The two caves Inergy are seeking permits for are controversial as there are past reports that deem the area unfit for gas storage.

Jeremy Alderson is editor and publisher of the No-Frack Almanac and was arrested outside the Inergy facility in September 2012.

“That gas storage site on Seneca Lake, those salt caverns, they were deemed to be too unstable for the storage of nuclear waste 30 years ago. And it appears that another gas storage company rejected the site because of geological consideration as well,” Alderson says.

“So right off the bat we’re concerned that they’re putting this gas – in huge volumes, is the plan – into an unstable and unsafe facility.

“Gas storage in salt caverns is the most dangerous form of gas storage there is. It’s been responsible for most of the catastrophic gas storage accidents, and this looks to be a particularly poor site for it.”

Arrested biologist and author Steingraber released the following statement after being charged with trespassing:

It is wrong to bury explosive, toxic petroleum gases in underground chambers next to a source of drinking water for 100,000 people. It is wrong to build out the infrastructure for fracking at a time of climate emergency. It is right for me come to the shores of Seneca Lake, where my 11-year-old son was born, and say, with my voice and with my body, as a mother and biologist, that this facility is a threat to life and health.

The blockade precedes a rally opposing the facility planned for late Monday. Schuyler County Sheriff Bill Yessman says his office doesn’t anticipate any more problems with protesters.

Inergy describes itself as an energy storage and transportation company on the company website.

WXXI/Finger Lakes Reporter for the Innovation Trail
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