|
The Steuben Courier Advocate
  • LPG storage facility: DEC review enters new phase

  • The long saga of the proposed LPG storage facility on Seneca Lake took another turn Tuesday, with the state Department of Environmental Conservation announcing a new step in its five-year review of the project.
    • email print
      Comment
  • The long saga of the proposed LPG storage facility on Seneca Lake took another turn Tuesday, with the state Department of Environmental Conservation announcing a new step in its five-year review of the project.
    The DEC will soon hold an issues conference before an administrative law judge, officials said.
    It’s a somewhat unusual step for the DEC, and is typically for large-scale and controversial projects like the LPG facility, said DEC spokesman Peter Constantakes.
    A subsidiary of Houston-based Crestwood wants to use salt caverns beneath the U.S. Salt plant on Seneca Lake near Watkins Glen to store and distribute large amounts of LPG, or propane and butane. The fuel would be brought in by rail and distributed by trucks and pipelines.
    Opponents fear environmental impacts, catastrophic accidents and industrial activity will affect quality of life and Seneca Lake’s tourism.In a related development Tuesday, Arlington Storage Company, a division of Crestwood, submitted a 34-page Implementation Plan and Request for Clearance to Commence Construction of the Gallery 2 Expansion Project to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The schedule attached to the plan indicates construction of a compressor will begin Aug. 18 and installation of wellheads and piping will begin Oct. 24. The project is expected to be complete in May 2015, according to the document.
    The project was first proposed in 2009 by Kansas City-based Inergy, which recently merged with Crestwood. The company owns the U.S. Salt plant, one of Schuyler County’s largest employers.
    In the fall of 2011, the DEC held a contentious two-day public hearing in Watkins Glen and took written comments on the project, but has given few updates since on the status of the review.
    The issues conference announced Tuesday - but yet to be scheduled by the DEC - takes the review to another level, Constantakes said.
    “It’s more evidence-based, rather than somebody saying, ‘I don’t like this project or I like this project, this will create jobs, this will destroy the environment,’ whatever,” he said. “This will present actual testimony.”
    The only people allowed to testify will be those who have standing - in legal terms, an individual or organization deemed to be directly impacted by the planned LPG storage project, Constantakes said.
    Individuals or organizations must file a petition and have it approved in order to testify.
    If the administrative law judge determines there are “significant and substantive” issues, the review would go to yet another level, called an adjudicatory hearing. The judge at the adjudicatory hearing would then make a recommendation to DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens, who would make the final determination, Constantakes said.
    Both opponents and supporters of the LPG project, however, claim that Gov. Andrew Cuomo really will have the final say. Finger Lakes winery owners held a press conference in Albany in July asking Cuomo to deny the permits.
    Page 2 of 2 - Through its public relations firm, Crestwood issued the following statement on the newly announced phase of the review:
    “We are disappointed that the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Governor believe an issues conference is now warranted after almost five years in the permitting process. The review process has been extensive and thorough, and the Department has confirmed it has all of the information required to make a decision later this year. This shovel-ready project has been designed to achieve the highest safety and environmental standards, will add significant tax base to local economies, and will help local consumers avoid paying more than they should for propane supplies during the winter months.”
    The Schuyler County Legislature, after a heated debate, passed a resolution in support of the project in July.
    Dr. Joseph Campbell, founder and president of Gas Free Seneca, said his group planned to make its voice heard during the process and that he remains “cautiously optimistic” that the permits will eventually be denied.

        calendar