|Letter from Jeremy Alderson to the People for a Healthy Environment, Inc.
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
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.