Yates Legislators to vote on gas storage facility

Gwen Chamberlain

When the Yates County Legislators meet Oct. 14, one of the resolutions they will consider opposes the LP gas storage facility proposed for a site on the west side of Seneca Lake in the Schuyler County town of Reading, south of the town of Starkey in Yates County.

Opponents of the project who have formed a group called Gas Free Seneca have asked counties and towns around Seneca Lake to adopt resolutions opposing the project, which has been planned since 2009.

No local action from any municipality is required for approval of the project. State and federal agencies are responsible for the approval and oversight of the proposed project, where Crestwood (formerly Inergy) plans to store up to 2.1 million barrels of liquid propane gas in salt caverns.

Last year, Yates County officials agreed to send a letter of concern to Schuyler County regarding the project, while Seneca and Ontario Counties passed resolutions in opposition of the project. The Schuyler County Legislature adopted a resolution in support of the project, and affirmed that resolution a month later.

A subsidiary of Crestwood — Arlington — is planning to store natural gas in salt caverns at the same location. The Federal Regulatory Commission has approved plans to expand storage capacity in a salt cavern referred to as “Gallery 2,” but construction has not begun since state permits have not been granted. The previous owner of the property, NYSEG, had begun the process of converting Gallery 2 for storage of natural gas, but sold the site to Crestwood before completing the project.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced plans to hold an issues conference with an administrative judge regarding Crestwood’s plans for LP gas storage. No information on the conference has been released by the DEC since the plan was announced in August.

At Monday’s Yates County Legislature Government Operations Committee meeting, representatives of Crestwood and Gas Free Seneca made presentations to legislators. Three residents of Yates County and representatives from Gas Free Seneca spoke in opposition of the project.

Barry Moon, manager of Crestwood, described the company’s plans, offering Crestwood’s perspective on concerns that have been brought up by Gas Free Seneca and other opponents.

According to Moon’s presentation, US Salt has been mining salt along the shores of Seneca Lake since the 1890s. Inergy Midstream purchased US Salt in 2008 and purchased NYSEG’s natural gas storage facility (Gallery 2) located on US Salt’s property in 2011. Inergy Midstream changed its name to Crestwood Midstream Partners after merging with another company in 2013.

District IV Legislator Bill Holgate, who is also a Starkey Councilman, asked pointed questions about the testing that is required before and during the LP gas storage operations.

District I Legislator Gary Montgomery of the town of Jerusalem asked questions about transportation and truck traffic. Moon said there would be no increased truck traffic because the trucks that now load LP gas at the neighboring Teppco facility will come to the new Crestwood facility instead.

Later, Joe Campbell, one of the founders of Gas Free Seneca, questioned that, asking, “Does anyone think Teppco is going to stop selling propane?”

Many opposed to the facility have expressed concerns about the brine ponds either leaking or over-flowing into the lake. The brine is used to backfill the caverns during extraction of the gas.

Moon said plans call for two ponds that will exceed Department of Environmental Conservation standards.

District I Legislator Elden Morrison of Jerusalem said he would like to know why Schuyler legislators support the project while there is public opposition to it.

All Yates County legislators except Margaret Dunn of the town of Italy in District I attended the meeting.

District II Legislator Robert Clark, a member of the Government Operations Committee, offered a motion to send the resolution to the full legislature on Oct. 14. The motion, seconded by Jim Multer of Barrington, was approved, with Bonnie Percy of Starkey casting the lone “no” vote.

Committee members are Mark Morris of Milo, Clark, Multer, Percy, and Morrison.

The resolution says, in part:

“Whereas, the Yates County Legislature is deeply concerned with the potential for dramatic and catastrophic environmental impacts from this project due to:

1. The uncertain geologic stability of the subterranean caverns, and the risk that such caverns could be compromised by even low level earthquakes that are common in this region of New York State.

2. The threat of discharge of large amounts of salt water from surface storage facilities into Seneca Lake or its tributaries.

3. The threat of discharge of large amounts of salt water as it is being moved between subterranean caverns and surface storage facilities during the course of operations.

4. The threat of LPG seepage from said subterranean caverns.”

To see a copy of the resolution, go to www.Chronicle-Express.com and look for this article.

The legislature meets at 6 p.m. Oct. 14 in the Legislative Chambers of the Yates County office building.