Schuyler County lawmakers approve LPG storage facility, call on DEC to approve permit

Mike Miley/via Flickr
June 11, 2014

Lawmakers in Schuyler County are calling on state environmental regulators to approve a propane storage site near Watkins Glen. The controversial project has been under review for more than three years because of concerns about safety and possible negative effects to the wine and tourism industries.

The measure in support of a liquefied petroleum gas storage facility in Reading, a small town just north of Watkins Glen, passed by a count of 5-3.

The project was originally proposed by Kansas City-based Inergy Midstream in 2011. Inergy merged with Houston-based Crestwood in 2013. Supporters of the project, wearing bright white Crestwood T-shirts, were scattered in with the 100-plus opponents at Monday night’s legislature meeting.

The text of the resolution in supports cites the go-ahead given by the state geologist, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the US Army Corps of Engineers.

But the project has drawn strong local opposition for three years. Tourism-dependent businesses up and down Seneca Lake, along with neighboring county legislatures, have raised concerns about the project.

Joseph Campbell is a co-founder of Gas Free Seneca, a group that has spearheaded the opposition. Campbell says the Finger Lakes tourism industry would have trouble growing next to a project like this.

“We’re talking about an industrial-scale gas storage and transportation facility, in the words of the company, a hub servicing the Northeastern United States.”

Campbell and Gas Free Seneca have also raised concerns about that damage that would be caused by a spill and doubts about the structural integrity of the salt caverns.

The project’s supporters in the legislature say all the concerns have been addressed by the Department of Environmental Conservation and federal regulators. The supporting measure cites unnamed sources within the DEC who say the project has been given the go-ahead by DEC personnel, but is being held up by officials in Albany for political reasons.

Campbell says that gives his group and their campaigning too much credit.

“There is no final environmental impact statement, they haven’t issued an underground storage permit, this is not simply sitting on the commissioner’s desk.”

According to a statement by the DEC, the permit application remains on hold while DEC staff review public comments. There is no timetable for a final recommendation.