Starkey Citizens for a Clean & Healthy Environment
Letter from Jeremy Alderson to the People for a Healthy Environment, Inc.

Hi Frank,

Thank you for thinking of me. I cannot post to the PHE group, so I would appreciate it if you would pass this along to all of them as well. Just to be clear, the deficient state of emergency preparedness in Schuyler County was just one aspect of my defense against the charge of trespassing, or it would have been, if I had been allowed to offer a justification defense. Such a defense would also have included the known risks of storing gas in salt caverns among many other things, but again, I was not allowed to give it.

As for the new CEMP, I don't think here's anything wrong with a community having one, but it is by no means an antidote for what ails local emergency services. There are two overriding problems with this CEMP.

1 - Schuyler County has a history of being negligent about safety requirements and this will just give them one more thing to be negligent about. There are lots of good things already on the books in the Schuyler County Hazardous Materials Plan, the WGFD's Standard Operating Guidelines, and other sources. For example, there is supposed to be preplanning for potential emergencies. On their website, the Schuyler County Emergency Services even tout that they do such preplanning. The only trouble is that it's a lie. Many months of filing freedom-of-information requests with Schuyler County and the Village of Watkins Glen have failed to turn up a single preplanning document. As I have pointed out many times, neither Watkins Glen personnel nor Schuyler County personnel even have in their possession a map of the Crestwood facility or a diagram of its shut-off valves. Schuyler County Legislature chair Dennis Fagan is on the county-wide emergency committee as is County Administrator Timothy O'Hearn and many others, but no one stepped up to demand that existing procedures be followed, and neither did any official from the Village of Watkins Glen, so who is going to step up to enforce the new CEMP? William Kennedy is both the emergency management coordinator who has been completely negligent in the fulfillment of his duties as well as the one tasked with helping to develop this new plan. I really don't see how that can inspire confidence. Insofar as a plan is only as good as its execution, there is simply no reason to believe that anything about the new CEMP will actually make us safer.

2 - As far as Crestwood is concerned, no CEMP can prepare us for an emergency there. As we saw with the Lac Magnetic oil train explosion and the horrifying destruction of that Mexico City children's hospital, there is nothing much that emergency responders can do when faced with catastrophes of that magnitude. As clearly outlined in their own guidelines, all that local first responders will be able to do to mitigate many kinds of incidents is evacuate survivors and call for help, which may take a long time to arrive. And even with help, many kinds of fires just have to be allowed to burn out. In other words, any Schuyler County plan for dealing with a major Crestwood-related emergency is about as meaningful as a Schuyler County plan for fighting the effects of an atomic bomb dropped on Watkins Glen. It will never be more than words on paper.

Starkey Citizens for a Clean & Healthy Environment -