Starkey Citizens for a Clean & Healthy Environment
Save the Finger Lakes: A Blog

New Yorkers should be commended for our work to keep fracking out of our state. The science and evidence is behind us, and our efforts have been noticed throughout the world.

Yet we are dropping the ball when it comes to stopping the build-out of fracking infrastructure, and the time to rally against this is now. This requires our immediate attention.

Even if we are able to ban fracking in New York, the Finger Lakes region is slated to become the largest fracked-gas storage and transport hub for the Northeastern United States, with Seneca Lake at its epicenter. Shovels could be in the ground any day. This is happening NOW.

Seneca contains 4.2 trillion gallons of water, and is the largest fresh-water body solely within New York’s borders. It is host to the most wineries in the region; on its western side is the most agriculturally productive county in the state; it has a growing, sustainable local economy, and is a world-class tourist destination.

An out-of-state corporation purchased US Salt on the western side of Seneca Lake for the sole purpose of storing natural gas and derivatives from fracked gas (propane and butane) in unlined depleted salt caverns along the lake. Inergy (itself recently purchased by Crestwood) boasts on its that they have 40 million barrels of energy storage potential. Their plan will lead to increased truck and rail traffic and includes a massive six-track rail siding to park over 50 tanker cars, two huge brine pits, a 60-foot flare stack to burn off gas during the brine transfer process; and noisy compressor stations that create ground-level ozone (i.e. smog) as they force gases into the ground at high pressure. While some in the fracking industry claim that fracking creates jobs, this project will only provide 8-10.

This industrialization alone will kill the tourism industry in the Finger Lakes, which brings hundreds of millions of dollars into the state on an annual basis.

The list of concerns about this plan runs as deep as the lake itself. The structural integrity of the caverns is questionable. According to a news report, one cavern was plugged and abandoned 10 years ago after an engineer found that its roof had collapsed in a minor earthquake. Another cavern sits directly below a rock formation plagued by “rock movement” and “intermittent collapse.” Just last September, an earthquake that registered 2.0 on the Richter scale occurred on the west shore of Seneca Lake.

If natural gas—an invisible, flammable vapor—were to escape from the caverns, the results could be deadly. Since 1972 the only major gas storage disasters have been in salt cavern facilities, including a disaster in Hutchinson, Kansas where gas leaked from salt caverns, migrated eight miles through underground fissures and set off explosions that killed two people. Other concerns include the cumulative environmental and health impacts that come with building an industrialized storage facility in a formally rural area.

We face a battle on two fronts. The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has control over permitting for underground storage of propane, butane and compressed natural gas. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has permit control over above ground infrastructure for natural gas storage. Despite appeals to the DEC, Governor Cuomo, and other federal representatives, FERC approval could come within weeks.

Despite massive opposition, including protests, arrests, and even jail-time served, not to mention a growing coalition of over 180 regional businesses who oppose this, Cuomo remains silent. Allowing gas industry infrastructure into New York is as great a political liability—and a threat to all New Yorkers—as permitting fracking. We cannot drop the ball on this. We need to put greater pressure on Cuomo and other decision-makers to make our voices heard: We will NOT let the gas Industry creep further into New York. For more information, please go to www.gasfreeseneca.com

Yvonne Taylor is a Speech-Language Therapist who resides on family land along Seneca Lake, who co-founded the grassroots organization Gas Free Seneca in 2011.
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