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Pouring On the Gas in the Finger Lakes

PHOTO: Vineyards near Seneca Lake and the tourism they attract are threatened by plans to expand and add oil and gas facilities on the western shore, according to opponents of the development. Photo credit: Tthass/Wikimedia Commons.
PHOTO: Vineyards near Seneca Lake and the tourism they attract are threatened by plans to expand and add oil and gas facilities on the western shore, according to opponents of the development. Photo credit: Tthass/Wikimedia Commons.
May 21, 2014

READING, N.Y. - You may have heard one of New York's latest tourism commercials: "I'm Meryl Streep and New York is my home. One of my favorite places is the Finger Lakes." However, according to the co-founder of an activist group, plans for expanding and adding gas and oil facilities on the shore of Seneca Lake will likely drive tourists away.

"They don't come to the Finger Lakes to see burning flare stacks and to listen to metal on metal as trains go across tracks and trucks carrying explosive propane rumble through the streets," said Yvonne Taylor, co-founder of Gas Free Seneca.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved an application to expand natural gas storage in abandoned salt caverns alongside Seneca Lake. Local opponents are calling on the state to nix both that and a proposal to create a major liquid petroleum gas-storage facility.

Both are projects by subsidiaries of Houston-based Crestwood Midstream Partners. Taylor said they would do little for the region's economy.

"This proposal will only bring eight to 10 full-time, permanent jobs into the region," she said, "sacrificing our driving economic engine in the region, which is the jobs from wineries and bed-and-breakfasts, and restaurants and breweries, microbreweries."

Deborah Goldberg, a managing attorney in the Northeast office of Earthjustice who is helping Gas Free Seneca fight the development, said Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited Seneca Lake twice last summer to promote the region.

"Gov. Cuomo went with great fanfare to that area to promote the wine industry," she said. "He has Regional Economic Development Councils that have developed a plan for the Finger Lakes, and that plan does not say anything about oil and gas development."

Other concerns center around the possible harm to the lake itself, which provides drinking water to 100,000 residents, and a published study showing massive roof failure in one of the proposed gas storage caverns, of which the company claimed no knowledge.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY