An effort to stymie construction and expansion of a natural gas storage facility near Watkins Glen has been turned back.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has denied a request for a rehearing of Arlington Storage Company’s application for an extension of time to complete construction of the project that has been the object of protests and opposition since it was announced in 2010.

In May 2014, FERC authorized expansion of the previously-approved storage project. The expansion involves converting two interconnected salt caverns previously used for liquefied petroleum gas storage to use for natural gas storage, according to FERC documents. The 2014 federal approval required Arlington Storage to complete the construction and put it in service within two years, by May 15, 2016. On Jan. 28, 2016, Arlington requested a two-year extension, explaining construction had not begun because the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation had not acted on its application for an underground storage permit.

Gas Free Seneca, a group that has opposed the project, requested the rehearing, citing safety hazards FERC had not addressed in its review.

The latest FERC decision, released Jan. 6, says the commission requires Arlington to comply with specific conditions and safety precautions. 

The decision says in part, “The May 2014 Certificate Order found that Arlington Storage’s proposal was in the public interest and would not have a significant effect upon the environment. Gas Free Seneca does not present any information that calls that finding into question.”

This was Gas Free Seneca’s second request for a re-hearing. Gas Free Seneca released a statement Jan. 9 in response to the decision. Members of that coalition want the project to be measured against new federal regulations set to take effect in July.

“FERC continues to ignore the safety and environmental risks posed by this project. If Crestwood (Arlington) is allowed to construct this facility before the federal rules take effect, it will be built without meeting minimum federal safety standards,” said Gas Free Seneca President Joseph Campbell. “Such an outcome is unacceptable. FERC’s failure to evaluate this project’s risks according to industry recommended practices and now federal safety rules show once again that FERC upholds the interests of the natural gas industry to the exclusion of the health and safety interests of local communities. Since FERC won’t protect the safety of New Yorkers, we are counting on Governor Cuomo to step in.”

Arlington Storage applied for New York DEC underground storage permit in July 2010 and renewed the application in August 2011.

DEC spokesperson Linda Vera says the DEC has not received the necessary approval from the State Geologist’s Office, which is a prerequisite to issuance of a permit for Arlington’s Gallery 2.