|
The Steuben Courier Advocate
  • Schuyler lawmakers to vote on dueling resolutions on LPG project

    • email print
  • The Schuyler County Legislature is expected to vote on dueling resolutions Monday evening regarding Crestwood’s proposed LPG storage facility on Seneca Lake.
    One of the resolutions, introduced by Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan, calls on the state Department of Environmental Conservation to approve the project, which has been under review by the DEC since 2009.
    The other, introduced by Legislator Michael Lausell, lists a number of concerns and asks the DEC to deny the project.
    Up until now, the Schuyler County Legislature hasn’t taken an official position on the project, which involves using salt caverns along the west side of Seneca Lake just outside Watkins Glen for bulk storage and distribution of propane and butane. Truck and rail stations for transporting the fuel would also be built.
    The legislature will meet at 6:30 p.m. in the Schuyler County Office Building, 105 Ninth St., Watkins Glen.
    Fagan’s resolution states that all of the necessary steps for approval have been taken, and there is no reason to deny the permits.
    “My sources at the DEC have indicated that the technical sign-off occurred months ago, and it’s sitting on the commissioner’s desk, basically just languishing there - I assume waiting for the governor’s approval,” Fagan said.
    Fagan says the concerns raised by opponents, including Gas Free Seneca - a group of area residents and businesses fighting the project - are “vastly overstated.”
    Fagan says the last thing he’d want to do is adversely affect Seneca Lake or the tourism industry.
    The benefits include ensuring an adequate supply of propane locally and across New York State during the winter months, he adds.
    He’s also afraid that if Crestwood’s LPG storage project is denied, the company would shut down U.S. Salt, which it owns. The plant sits above the salt caverns that would be used for LPG storage. But the company’s focus is on fuel storage, which is likely why the site was acquired.
    “U.S. Salt is one of our biggest employers, and our largest taxpayer,” Fagan said. “My concern is that if this project is denied, there is a possibility - if not the likelihood - that we could see the closure of U.S. Salt.”
    Lausell’s resolution lists many of the concerns that have been raised in the years-long controversy over the LPG project.
    It mentions the risks of accidents involved with transporting fuel by truck, rail or pipeline; of fires or explosions at the salt caverns; and of industrial activity at the salt caverns increasing the salinity of Seneca Lake, a prime source of drinking water for the region.
    Page 2 of 2 - Lausell says Schuyler County’s emergency management plans haven’t been updated to address the risks associated with the project. His concerns include propane-laden trucks coming down a steep grade and around a curve on State Route 14 as they enter downtown Watkins Glen.
    He’s also concerned about butane-laden railroad tankers crossing the trestle over the gorge at Watkins Glen State Park, which is almost always filled with hundreds of tourists during the warmer months.
    “Many of the people who elected me are opposed to this project, and I feel it’s my duty to represent their viewpoints,” he added.
    Gas Free Seneca leader Joseph Campbell says many project opponents plan to attend Monday’s legislature meeting. He notes that several other municipalities around Seneca Lake - most recently the City of Geneva - have passed resolutions opposing the project.
    He says the legislature “sneaked a resolution into Monday’s meeting that flies in the face of their constituents’ demands.”
    “A favorable vote in support of these projects is a vote against not only the over 18,000 residents living in the county and over 200 local businesses, but also to the neighboring counties and towns who understand that permitting heavy industrialization of this magnitude would negatively impact our region for generations to come,” Campbell said in an email to The Leader.
    At the request of another legislator, an amendment was added to Fagan’s resolution that would direct Bill Kennedy, coordinator of the Schuyler County Office of Emergency Management, to prepare specific plans for dealing with some of the concerns that have been raised, such as a hazardous material spill.
    Even if his resolution passes, Fagan isn’t optimistic that Gov. Andrew Cuomo will allow the DEC to make any kind of decision before the November election.
    “I don’t think the governor will do a damn thing until after the election,” he said.

      • calendar