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Jailed Members of Anti-Fracking “Seneca 12” Freed


Friday, April 26, 2013   

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – The Seneca 12 blocked the entrance to a natural gas storage facility in Reading on March 18.

The peaceful protesters were demonstrating against what they see as a plan by Inergy Midstream to turn salt caverns near Seneca Lake into a regional storage hub for fracked gases from Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Some of them appeared in court and paid fines, but Michael Dineen, Melissa Chipman and Sandra Steingraber opted for jail instead, getting 15-day sentences.

Released shortly after midnight Thursday, several days early for good behavior, Steingraber – an author, biologist and professor at Ithaca College – says she's opposed to the facility and its role in continued dependence on fossil fuels.

"There's a long, time-honored tradition within the sciences that scientists have to take moral responsibility for things," she says.

New York is currently awaiting a decision from the Cuomo administration on fracking, or horizontal fracturing of shale rock, to extract natural gas.

Meanwhile, three of the protesters are still awaiting trial.

Deborah Goldberg is managing attorney with EarthJustice, which is helping critics of fracking. She says Seneca Lake is a growing wine producing area and a prime tourist attraction.

"Folks there who love the Finger Lakes region,” she says, “and who have worked very hard to develop these sustainable businesses, really don't want new industrial development that would push the region into a completely different kind of economy, one that's not sustainable."

Steingraber says she was motivated by a broader concern for climate change exacerbated by non-renewable carbon-based fuels.

"Even though New York, happily, has a de facto moratorium on fracking,” she says, “if we allow for the storage and transportation of fracked gas, we are aiding and abetting industry that is continuing to entrench our dependency on fossil fuels."

Goldberg says Inergy Midstream is not forthcoming with the basis on which it claims the storage sites will be safe.

"We believe that there is no way this should proceed on the basis of safety concerns,” she says, “until the public has access to information that shows that it's going to really be safe.”

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