Yates County opposes gas storage

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express

Yates County Legislators received a standing ovation from a large crowd Oct. 14 after they voted to oppose the storage of LP gas in salt caverns near Seneca Lake in the town of Reading, just south of Yates County.

The resolution adds Yates County to the list of municipalities surrounding the lake that are opposed to the project which is supported only by Schuyler County. The project is proposed by Crestwood, a Texas corporation that purchased U.S. Salt.

District III Legislators Leslie Church and Dan Banach, both from the Town of Milo, which includes a portion of Seneca lakefront, cast the only two “no” votes out of the 14 elected legislators.

During the legislator’s discussion of the resolution, Church said she believes the state officials have the expertise and responsibility to approve or deny Crestwood’s application.

Church is supervisor of the Town of Milo. The Milo Town Board declined to act on a resolution to oppose the project last month.

The company, which owns U.S. Salt, wants to develop a large gas storage and distribution center using salt caverns, some of which extend under Seneca Lake, to store pressurized LP gas.

She said the issue was too important to be rushed or confused with gas drilling. “Gas storage is not new to Yates County or the region,” and said she didn’t feel the legislature has enough information.

District IV Legislator Bill Holgate of Starkey, who seconded the motion offered by District III Legislator Mark Morris of Milo, said, “This is not a vote for Gas Free Seneca. It’s also not a vote against Schuyler County, but it is a vote for Seneca Lake.”

District I Legislator Elden Morrison of Jerusalem said he would support the resolution even though he is reluctant to go against Schuyler County. He said he thinks he’s hearing an overwhelming sentiment from people in the area that they don’t want the project.

District II Legislator Robert Clark of Benton said while he believes in home rule, “Seneca Lake belongs to all of us,” and said he would support the resolution.

District I Legislator Doug Paddock of Jerusalem, said he has received between 65 and 70 emails about the project and only three favored the project. He pointed out that the decision is up to the DEC. “The DEC will do what it sees fit,” he said.

Morris said he doesn’t think he’s seen so many comments about an issue in his time on the legislature. He said he received over 100 total messages and fewer than five were in favor of the project.

Representatives of Gas Free Seneca, the grass roots group that has organized to oppose the Crestwood project, had asked the legislature in September to re-consider the project and Yates County’s position, which since last year had been limited to a letter to Schuyler County and the state Department of Environmental Conservation urging caution.

Representatives from Crestwood and Schuyler County presented information about the project at the Government Operations Committee meeting.

Twelve people, most from Yates County, but some from other areas, spoke to the legislators about the project during the public comment portion of the meeting. None of them supported the project. They discussed safety issues, salinity of Seneca Lake, potential for increased truck traffic and its impact on tourism and agriculture and other concerns about potential risks.

Don Sottile of Himrod said, “We’re going to risk damage so some corporation in some other state can make some money? It’s not money for our part of the world... Appreciate where you live and defend it.”

Copies of the resolution will be sent to several regional, state and federal officials.