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Seneca Lake protestors mark milestone in fight against gas storage

David Chanatry/File Photo
New York Reporting Project at Utica College
File Photo

The dispute over whether an energy company should be storing natural gas in salt caverns underneath Seneca Lake reaches a milestone this week.

For the last year and a half, more than 500 protestors from the group We Are Seneca Lake have been arrested at the Watkins Glen entrance of the Seneca Lake storage facility, owned by the Houston-based company Crestwood. The environmental group is upset with plans by Crestwood to expand storage of natural gas in salt caverns under Seneca Lake.

Crestwood received Federal Energy Regulatory Commission permission to do that in October of 2014. But grassroots activist Lindsay Speer says time is working against the company that provides storage and transportation for the products of hydro-fracking.

"They’re actually supposed to have their construction completed by May 15th. And they haven’t even started yet. And they get no extension, so we are hoping that expires,” said Speer.

Environmentalists have long criticized the plan to use the salt caverns to store gas. They say these are not typical salt caverns that are encased in a salt dome, but rather they are a combination of salt and shale. Activists contend that is not stable, and ultimately could leach saline into the lake, which provides drinking water for 100,000 people.

"This is putting get future of the Finger Lakes at risk. We’ve had the wine industry become this $5.6 billion industry in New York, and that’s the heart of it right there. And then you have this risky infrastructure right there. It’s a question of what kind of future we want for our communities,” said Speer.

The group is also concerned about a deal between Crestwood and downstate utility Con Edison, to jointly own the gas storage facilities. We are Seneca County is planning on going to Con Ed’s shareholder’s meeting Monday to speak on the issue.