Inergy or Gas Free: LPG storage on Seneca Lake

20 Jun

By Ashley Gardner

Students walked in the rain, holding up signs and chanting. The reason for the protest…… a LPG storage unit on Seneca Lake

 Sam Gill secretary general of the model UN class at the WatkinsGlenHigh School said that for the class’s finial project they voted to do the issue of LPG storage unit. The ideas for the final were the LPG Storage unit gun control and raising money for the Boston bombing victims. They  decided to inform the school about it, practiced debates for and against LPG Storage, and they even planned  a peaceful protect for May 22, and May 23, for everyone in the community, even if you are pro-LPG or just don’t know what to be. The 1st day protest was lead by Sam Gill and had gotten some students including one who was Pro-LPG who marched to the state park from the pier and back. On the 2nd day the protest was lead by Rachael Miller and despite the rain and cold weather, 25 students showed up doubling the numbers from the first day. Joining them also was some members from the community, including Gas Free Seneca. The students enjoyed being loud and proud, gaining much support with the honks from cars, with a few negative “birds” here and there but that did not get them down. Students are not the only people protesting the LPG unit but many in the community are also.

On March 8th, 2013 twelve people (The Seneca 12) blocked the gate to Inergy’s facility and all twelve were arrested. Some of the people refused to pay the fine saying Inergy has broken the law by violating the Clean Water Act, by dumping excess effluent discharge into the lake every day, even after getting a permit to dump 44,000 pounds of sodium chloride (salt) into the lake every day. The protestors also say that Inergy has had two equipment failures that resulted in dead and dying vegetation along the lake.

Inergy is planning on storing LPG or liquefied petroleum gas in the abandoned salt caverns on Seneca Lake and members of the community are not happy about it.

“They feel that Inergy is the true criminal, not the citizens trying to protect their homes and way of life.” said Yvonne Taylor from Gas Free Seneca.

The people who refused to pay are Melissa Chipman, a businesswoman from Hector, Michael Dineen an organic farmer who waters his farm with Seneca lake water, and Dr. Sandra Steingraber, a cancer survivor, author, and biologist who has won the Heinz Award for her environmental work, and has been educating people about the connection between industry and its impact on public health. Dr. Steingraber’s son Elijah was also born at SeptemberHillBirthing Center in Seneca Lake Water giving here a bigger reason to fight for this cause.

Yvonne Taylor Co-Founder of Gas Free Seneca (  a group fighting to stop the LPG facility while having nothing to do with these arrests , understands why it happened, and supports those who now feel they now have not other choice than to commit acts of civil disobedience as a last resort.  They have  attended the Schuyler County legislature meetings, Village of Watkins Glen Board of Trustees meetings, met with Senator Gillbrand and Schumer’s staffers, met with Tom O’Mara, and Senator Michael Nozzlio, wrote letters to all of the above and to congressmen Tom Reed, sent written comments to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), commented during the two public hearings held by the DEC, held a public forum on the issue at the Watkins Glen High School, had a petition drive gaining over 5,000 signatures from area residents and tourists who oppose this facility, along with much more to try and stop Inergy.  Blocking the gate was the last resort after citizens felt a growing sense of desperation and realized that none of all the work they did had any real impact on stopping Inergy.

 Yvonne Taylor states “It is extremely frustrating to know that while other surrounding counties along Seneca Lake see what a threat this type of industrialization poses to our region, yet our own decision-makers do not seem equipped to come to that same conclusion.” 

When asked about the Seneca 12 getting arrested Yvonne says “I think it is sad that people feel as though they must perform acts of civil disobedience as a last resort, after all other conventional means have failed, in order to protect their homes. However, civil disobedience is as American as apple pie.” No one can forget the women’s suffrage movement to get the right to vote or Rosa Parks refusing to give up her sit on the bus. Acts like this help change things in the world throughout history and will probable continue all over the world.  Remember Gas Free Seneca did not participate in the civil disobedience but supports their neighbors who put their bodies on the line to defend this region.  Gas Free Seneca says that the air emissions from the storage facility, and from the additional diesel trucks needed for transportation of the gas, emit Volatile Organic Compounds or VOC’s that have been linked to increased asthma, pre-term birth, cancer, and learning disabilities. The VOC’s emitted also are harmful to crops, particularly grapes. They also say that they live across the lake from the facility and the noise goes on 24/7. It rattles the windows and vibrates the entire house and the lights from the facility already create unwanted light pollution. Although some people may think it is not as bad as people say it is.

Inergy’s Matt McCormick, Lab Director/Compliance Coordinator in Savona, New York and Barry Moon, Director of Safety here at the Watkins Glen facility said that the additional trucks would be four trucks an hour and it would not add much more then a diesel pick up going through ten times an hour compared to the four. The facility also would not emit the VOC but will run on electricity. Only their one flare tower that runs on propane would emit the VOC’s and that it probable won’t put out as much as your furnace does. VOCs are harmful to crops they said but they are really not going to increase the VOC’s around here more than normal recreational activity. They later said that the facility will be manly serviced by pipe line through the enterprise products facility, so during summer from April to September when it is tourist season it will come in by pipe line and rail so truck traffic will be very minimal with some trucks coming in and out for customers. In the winter the product will go out by truck and in by rail for propane and out by rail for butane so it will not affect the tourism. What you see now is what you will see once the facility is built, with trees in front to block the view, the tanks set back away from the road, and a lawn that they will keep mowed. Matt McCormick said if there was not the hoopla about the facility that no one would notice it besides the 10 people who got good jobs there. Also that the noise from the drilling rigs is not an every day thing, it’s them drilling new caverns for US Salt.  Inergy has taken a lot of measurements and have done studies about who would be affected by any potential catastrophic event and the ground water is always monitored with this sort of activates. Another thing was that the 2 equipment failures were brine leaks on US Salt’s Property, not part of their project ether, it was just something reported as Inergy and as he understands it was little problems with the wells between two pipes that were carrying brine that squirts brine maybe as big as your finger not the geyser that was reported by people and these events was also later reported in by Inergy.


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