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Finger Lakes vineyard owners continue opposition to natural gas storage plan

Jenna Flanagan/Innovation Trail
Michael Warren Thomas, host of a Rochester-based radio show about Finger Lakes wine and food in Albany recently to speak out against a gas storage proposal.

Winery owners have been stepping up their pressure on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to reject a proposal to store natural gas liquids in the salt caverns along scenic Seneca Lake.

A small but passionate group of career vineyard farmers and winery owners had one united message to deliver to Albany recently.

“We demand that Gov. Cuomo do the right thing and deny all these permits for gas storage on the west side of Seneca Lake,” says Doug Hazlet, a Seneca Lake vineyard owner.

Hazlet, like other members of the group, said the Finger Lakes identity was based on their world class wines and scenic beauty.

That, says Will Olean owner of O-Neh-Da & Eagle Crest Vineyards on Hemlock Lake, can’t be recreated.

“Millions of people vacation in the Finger Lakes Wine Country each year," he said. "They come from neighboring states to escape the truck traffic, the noise, the air and light pollution of their state’s gas and oil industry.”

Olean also accused energy company Crestwood Midstream, who are behind the expansion plan, of being a bad neighbor.

“They have lobbied to have their property tax decreased significantly, they will not pay New York state sales tax on gas stored or sold in their caverns, and they have a track record of ignoring New York state laws and regulations since moving to New York state,” he said.

The group cited potential explosions or brine spills in addition to industrial truck traffic levels for their concerns. Crestwood has said it’s safe to store Natural Gas Liquids or NGL and crude oil in the caves and that such storage had been safely done before.

Still, vineyard and winery owner, Lou Damiani from Burdett suggested denying the permit would be a wise move for the Cuomo administration.

“Gov. Cuomo, give us a reason to help you win big in November,” said Damiani.

The permits to allow Crestwood Midstream to store liquid natural gas in the Seneca Lake salt caves are waiting approval  by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, pending the outcome of an environmental impact statement.

Jenna first knew she was destined for a career in journalism after following the weekly reports of the Muppet News Flash as a child. In high school she wrote for her student newspaper and attended a journalism camp at SUNY New Paltz, her Hudson Valley hometown. Jenna then went on to study communications and journalism at Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ where she earned her Bachelor of Arts.