Finger Lakes Region 1199ers Threatened by Dangerous Gas Storage Plan

February 25, 2016

1199ers in New York State’s Central New York District continue to work with broad swaths of the community to prevent the storage of hazardous liquefied petroleum gases (LPG)— by-products of the hydraulic fracturing of rocks (fracking)—along the shores of and beneath Seneca Lake in Schuyler County.

Crestwood Midstream, a Texas based energy corporation, plans to store the gases in massive unlined and unstable salt caverns a few miles north of Watkins Glen.

The Seneca Lake region is renowned for its natural beauty, tourism, vineyards, and for the fishing, boating and swimming in its pristine waters. The lake also is the source of drinking water for some 100,000 residents in the region.

Over the last five years, Gas Free Seneca and, more recently, We Are Seneca Lake have led the campaign to convince the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to deny Crestwood an operating permit.

Gas Free Seneca warns that Crestwood seeks “to turn the Finger Lakes into a fracked gas transportation and storage hub for the entire Northeast.”

The organization also notes that salt caverns are especially prone to catastrophic accidents. It adds, “Our intention is to direct the future of our community down sustainable, renewable pathways.”

Towards that end, We Are Seneca Lake has trained over 1,000 people, many from the Watkins Glen area at the southern tip of the Lake, in peaceful civil disobedience. 1199ers are among the more than 450 citizen activists who have been arrested during protests at the site.

The protests have the support of 1199SEIU’s highest body, its executive council, which voted unanimously last July to oppose the construction and operation of the gas storage facility. The vote was consistent with the Union’s long history of support for climate justice. In 2014, for example, the council voted to deny fracking permits in New York State.

“I’m extremely concerned about fracking,” says Kaye Jaeger, an RN at Syracuse’s Crouse Hospital and a former executive council member. “I’m also concerned about protecting our water table.”

“We can’t give in to these powerful companies who put the bottom line ahead of the welfare of the people,” Jaeger emphasizes.

Opposition to the storage plans is widespread, bringing together residents, the environmental community and business interests, particularly the wine and tourist industries. Gas Free Seneca is doing much of the work along these lines. At press time, at least 31 legislative bodies in the region had passed resolutions opposing the project.

Unfortunately, Crestwood, aware of the dearth of good union jobs in the region, has gained the support of some unions.

“That is a false choice,” Jaeger says. “We shouldn’t trade our health for jobs.”

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