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Environment

Three jailed following protests at Seneca Lake compressor station

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David Chanatry
/
New York Reporting Project at Utica College
Biologist Sandra Steingraber speaks to a group of protesters before heading to court.

In a Schulyer County courthouse Wednesday night, 16 people were arraigned on trespassing charges for blocking the entrance to a natural gas storage facility. Three refused to pay a $250 fine and were sentenced to 15 days in jail, starting immediately.

The three protesters sentenced to jail include a retired Air Force master sergeant, a prominent scientist, and 86-year-old Roland Micklem, who leaned on his cane and told the judge that "a person’s got to do what a person’s got to do."

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Credit David Chanatry / New York Reporting Project at Utica College
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New York Reporting Project at Utica College
Roland Micklem, 86, is placed into the squad car after falling and hurting his knee. He was not badly hurt.

As the three were led outside in handcuffs to the chants of their supporters, Micklem slipped and fell. He had to be treated by EMTs.

This is the fourth week of protests at the gates of a compressor station on the shore of Seneca Lake, and eight more people were arrested yesterday. A Texas company recently won federal approval to increase the capacity of old salt caverns under the lake to store natural gas. Opponents say it threatens the water quality and the area's growing wine industry.

Biologist Sandra Steingraber is a leader of the opposition. This will be her second stint in jail.

"All of our legal attempts to redress grievances failed, and so we're left with this one recourse, which is civil disobedience," Steingraber said.

A second project to hold liquid propane and butane in adjacent salt caverns, is waiting on state approval before it can proceed.

David Chanatry reported this story as part of the New York Reporting Project at Utica College. You can read more of the project's stories at their website, nyrp-uc.org.