|LPG Storage Opponents Renew Their Pleas to Legislature
DEC announces 'issues conference' on Crestwood plan.
WATKINS GLEN, Aug. 12 -- The Schuyler County Legislature Monday night heard a string of people opposed to the proposed storage of LPG gas in salt caverns alongside Seneca Lake, a group buoyed by an announcement from the New York State Department of Conservation of an "issues conference" that could lead to "an adjudicatory hearing" on the project.
The Legislature listened to the speakers but took no action despite pleas from the majority of them that it "step back," rescind its June resolution favoring the storage plan, and "start over" with an open mind and with an open ear to the opponents' objections.
The DEC announcement was in a press release read by Chairman Dennis Fagan to the audience of 30-plus people on hand for the Legislature's regular monthly meeting. Much larger turnouts had been present at the past two months' meetings as protesters organized, marched and heckled legislators. By contrast, this session was the soul of civility.
Opponents speaking Monday responded to the DEC news by declaring it "huge," but one project supporter, Crestwood employee David Crea, suggested it was just another delaying tactic to carry Governor Andrew Cuomo's decision on the project past the November elections. There has been speculation Cuomo is delaying a decision on the political hot potato until he is safely re-elected.
Among Monday's opponents was retired Cayuga Medical Center CEO Rob Mackenzie, who presented legislators with copies of an "Independent High-Level Quantitative Risk Analysis" he conducted of the storage proposal -- a study that measured rail transportation, truck transportation and salt cavern risks. He concluded that:
"Rail transport events are scored a very low likelihood at 3%, but risk reduction efforts should be considered because of possibly extreme consequences. Truck transport events are scored a low likelihood at 8-10%, but are an unacceptable risk because of extreme consequences. Salt cavern storage events are scored a medium likelihood at 35%, and are an unacceptable risk because of extremely serious consequences ...
"In aggregate, the likelihood for a liquefied petroleum gas disaster of serious or extremely serious consequences within the county in the next 25 years is scored at more than 40%. From the perspective of community safety based on this analysis, the Crestwood proposal carries an unacceptable risk of serious or extremely serious consequences. Because risk mitigation efforts in salt cavern storage have thus far proven unsuccessful in significantly reducing the frequency of serious and extremely serious incidents, an alternative plan should be considered."
Sylvia Fox, a Town of Reading resident who has been instrumental in the storage-plan protests, asked in a prepared statement: "Why should Schuyler County residents take all the risk for the gain, the profit, of a Texas-based corporation?" She also attacked the Legislature's "unacceptable handling of this obviously controversial issue," concluding with this plea to legislators: "I am asking you, once again, and I will continue to ask: Please revoke this very flawed resolution tonight."
Paul and Mary Ann Wehrung of Burdett said they are "concerned homeowners" recommending that the legislators "stop, step back ... and revote on this." Said Paul: "It's too serious to let it go the way it's been going. Start again." Added Mary Ann: "I think you acted very hastily."
Richard Ballard of Montour Falls said he moved here because of "the beauty ... but had I known the beauty, the water and the air would be put at risk by misguided people, I would have considered moving elsewhere."
The press release:
The DEC press release, while both touted and denigrated by attendees, was explained by County Administator Tim O'Hearn: "This doesn't set new public hearings. It is an administrative hearing where groups can petition for party status in order to participate."
The press release read as follows: "Based on extensive public interest regarding a proposal to construct and operate an underground facility for storage and distribution of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in the Town of Reading, Schuyler County, State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens announced that an issues conference will be scheduled through DEC's Office of Hearings to determine if there are any significant and substantive issues that require an adjudicatory hearing.
"Participation in the issues conference would involve DEC staff, the applicant, and any individual or group that has filed a petition for party status. The schedule for the issues conference, as well as for the filing of petitions for party status, will be set by an administrative law judge in the near future.
"Finger Lakes LPG Storage, LLC, c/o Inergy Midstream LLC (now Crestwood), has proposed to construct and operate a new underground LPG storage facility for the storage and distribution of propane and butane on a portion of a 576-acre site located on NYS Routes 14 and 14A west of Seneca Lake in the Town of Reading.
"The storage facility would utilize existing caverns in the Syracuse salt formation created by US Salt and its predecessors' salt production operations.
"DEC will not grant a permit unless it can be demonstrated that the permit is in compliance with all legal requirements and that the proposed activity can be done safely in New York State."