LPG Storage Protests.

The Leader is no longer posting letters on its website, which means that I have to type out the lengthy letter entitled

Do LPG protesters know the truth?

Protest for purpose has a long and great tradition in this country. Pople who take the time to research, understand, ask questions, and enter dialogues with those they oppose before protesting are admirable.  People who have determined that every other avenue is closed to them and then choose to protest – without breaking the law – should be vaunted.  This is how change happens.  It does not happen when people who protest are ignorant of the issues, take on passion projects just for the sake of protesting.  These people should be criticized – not covered day in day out in the media.  Those who protest to create “an amazing show” as Sandra Steingraber has described we Are Seneca Lake’s recent efforts, should be ashamed of themselves.

These “professional protesters” have been attracted to this area because of fracking. Fracking does not take place in New York, and the projects at the US salt facility have absolutely nothing to do with it. Nothing. People are entitled to oppose fracking, but it has nothing to do with continuing the decades long safe practice of storing propane or natural gas in salt caverns near Seneca Lake.

I have lived and worked in Schuyler County and surrounding areas for decades, and I know how much pride locals take in our community.  I take deep pride in the wine and tourism industry my neighbors have created and I am honored to work at US Salt, a company that has stood as a pillar of our community for more than a century.  The ongoing protests outside of Crstwood’s decades old storage facility in Reading, NY represents the worst kind of troublemakers.  Too many of those protesting and being arrested are out-of-towners from New York City, Ohio and California here with one goal – disrupting our community.  These peope do not know the issues or the history of the area, let alone the geology and science.  They are not preventing anything from being constructed; all they are doing is disturbing the work that has gone on day in and day out for decades and endangering dozens of hard-working people.

I wonder how many of the protesters are aware that natural gas has been stored at the site they are blocking since 1997. I wonder if they know that porpane was stored at the same site from 1964-1984.  I wonder if they know that natural gas and propane are stored right across the street at the enterprise facility.  Do they know that propane has been stored in Steuben COunty and Cortland county since the early fifties?  I wonder how many of them took the time to learn these facts.

Most importantly, I wonder if they know that US Salt has been here for a century and is the largest employer and taxpayer in the county.  Crestwood is not a “foreign” company; it has been an active participant since purchasing Inergy, investing more than $830 million in New York State including more than $278 million in Schuyler alone. That kind of investment is not something  company would make without developing deep roots.  The more than 180 employees in six counties across the state know who Crestwood is and we know it has become an inposrtant partof New York.

But it’s not just the daily work in Reading that is being disrupted.  Far more importantly, the protestors are forcing the sheriff’s department to divert their resources and manpower so the protesters can smile for a picture in handcuffs.  It’s costing us local taxpayers not just money but endangering us as well.  recently, a deputy  – one of our hard-working, skilled, well-trained emergency responders was also a trained EMT who had a defibrillator in his car. He was sent to deal with civil disobedince and the local resident died.  I donn’t know if this could have been avoided,, but it is far from an “amazing show”.

I urge all my neighbors to take the time to learn the truthabout these projects, the history of the US Salt site, and Crestwood’s contributions to New York.  There is a great deal of information available on the internet.  Laws do not need to be broke, our community does not need to be placed at risk.  As for the protesters who don’t live here: please, on behalf of everyone who lives here and pays taxes here, go home.

Michael Gilbert, Himrod

(Phew!)

Reading this letter again, I might have responded differently.  As it happens, this is what I wrote:

In response to Michael Gilbert (November 27), I could simply say that yes, LPG protesters know the truth and leave it at that.

But as we, the protesters, seem to know somewhat different truths from those put out by Crestwood, I think that some further clarification is necessary.

Mr Gilbert seems not to have noticed that no one has protested the current business operating in Reading. I can find little fault with his arguments in support of the US Salt facility as it is now. Protests started when Inergy/Crestwood announced plans to turn the shores of Seneca Lake into the gas storage hub for the entire Northeast of the United States.

Increasing storage capacity would increase the risks associated with gas storage – explosions, seepage, contamination. These caverns are not stable. They lie over a geological fault, and there has already been a substantial cave-in. Crestwood maintains that the geologic data are proprietary information, which the public does not need to know. Whenever a company says that my nasty suspicious mind thinks that they are hiding something.

But even if we were incredibly lucky and the caverns retained their integrity, the whole idea of industrializing an area of amazing natural beauty is anathema to me and the other protesters, including over 200 businesses around the lake which depend on the quality of the water and air for their existence. Allowing Crestwood to expand as they want to is very similar to allowing Walmart into a community: you get one large, successful business which gives jobs to a few, but which puts all the small operations in the area out of business. Like Walmart, Crestwood does not care. As long as they are able to “continue to make significant progress in developing a substantial multi-year portfolio of investment opportunities to provide sustained growth for the partnership” they are happy. Furthermore they boast that “Our management team and Board of Directors are committed to balancing distribution coverage and growth to drive long-term value for our unit holders”

These quotes are taken from their website. It is sickening. As long as they make money for their investors, they simply don’t care about the damage they do to a community of real, hard-working people. They don’t care that the recently named most beautiful wine region in the world will be subjected to a new truck depot capable of loading and unloading 4 semi-trucks per hour and a new 6-track siding capable of loading and unloading 24 rail cars in 12 hours. Operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year round. The extra heavy trucks, reinforced to be able to carry liquid gas, will have to use routes 14 and 14A and the train cars will have to cross an inadequate bridge over the Gorge. They don’t care that the project necessitates two huge brine ponds of questionable integrity. They don’t care that the brine/gas transfer process necessitates a 60-foot flare stack to handle burn off.

They don’t care that enabling the further use of natural gas is highly detrimental to the health of the environment. Apparently no one has told them that we need to be doing all we can to reduce the amount of carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere, NOT pumping out more. Apparently no one has told them that without significant intervention, the climate on this planet of ours is going to become seriously unfriendly to humans.

They don’t care. But we do. We, the Defenders of Seneca Lake. We care. And, yes we come from all over. But, no, we are not professional protesters. We are concerned citizens (and in some cases non-citizens) who care about the state of the world, the state of our water, and the state of our local economy.

This expansion will not happen.

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