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Protesters Arrested at Proposed Natural Gas Storage Site

Protests have led to more than 500 arrests at the Seneca Lake site since 2014. (
Protests have led to more than 500 arrests at the Seneca Lake site since 2014. (
March 8, 2016

READING, N.Y. - Environmentalist and best-selling author Bill McKibben was among more than 50 people arrested Monday for blocking the entrance to a proposed natural gas storage facility.

Crestwood Midstream, a Texas-based energy company, wants to store natural gas in salt caverns on the shores of Seneca Lake.

Sandra Steingraber, founding member of the environmental group We Are Seneca Lake, says methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and there is no underground storage facility that doesn't leak.

"We just saw that in California with the Aliso Canyon situation, where one leak in one pipe became the largest methane leak ever in U.S. recorded history."

Supporters of the storage facility say Seneca Lake salt caverns were used for decades to store liquefied gas, or LPG, without problems.

But according to Steingraber, a PhD biologist, the storage of pressurized gas coincided with an increase in the salinity of the lake, high enough that pregnant women and people with high blood pressure were warned against drinking the water.

"This is the source of drinking water for 100,000 people. We could make it not potable for another big, vulnerable sub-population," says Steingraber. "And that's just a public health experiment I don't think we should run."

She says the salinity decreased when the gas was removed, and other lakes in the area did not show similar fluctuations in salt content.

Steingraber points out that some 31 towns and villages in the area have taken a stand against the gas storage facility.

"Altogether, more than a million people live in municipalities where resolutions have been passed in opposition to this project," she says.

Since federal approval for the project was granted in 2014, protests at the facility have resulted in more than 500 arrests.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY