Appalachian Basin

Caution: Big Splash of Irony

When you examine regional anti-gas movements like Gas-Free Seneca, it quickly becomes apparent how ironic, maybe even hypocritical, things have become.  Last weekend, for example, an event titled “Big Splash Seneca” was held at the Hector Fair grounds on Seneca Lake to launch attacks on the proposed Inergy LPG storage facility as a means of indirectly targeting natural gas development, even though the two are unrelated.  Attendees, after paying $10, were treated to a mix of stylized music (some sort of bluegrass, folk, and up tempo blues). They were also treated to a re-hashing of unsubstantiated claims about natural gas development spliced together with speeches by Dr. Sandra Steingraber and Dr. Robert Howarth.  For a complete debunking of each click here, here and here.  It was an extremely ironic event, indeed a “big splash of irony.”

Let’s count the ways:

#1 Many of the residents and vineyards throughout the region use bottled gas, yet somehow think it arrives without any need for storage and distribution facilities. Take a look at this picture in particular. Notice how directly under a sign (that states “defend our water & air”) there is a huge propane storage tank in the distance.

Taken outside Hazlitt Winery from Hector Fair grounds, Hector NY.

Obviously, homeowners and businesses rely on propane for heating, cooking, clothes drying, hot water heating and grilling to name a few. What many people do not realize is that local farms and vineyards also use propane for crop drying, irrigation, flame weeding, and most importantly,  to protect vineyard and orchard crops during unexpected cold spells.  In spite all of this, these folks are protesting a propane storage facility that will simply reuse existing infrastructure. All in the name of creating a wedge to block natural gas development

#2 Seneca Lake has long been famous for more than wine. Many do not realize that, aside from the beautiful scenery, fertile land, and unique climate – all of which combine of course for excellent wine – the Seneca Lake area is also famous for another natural resource – salt. However this essential nutrient could not have been discovered without the Watkins Oil Well Company (founded in 1882) which , not surprisingly, was looking for oil when it found salt. Since than salt has been produced at Seneca Lake for over a century and has been a mainstay of the local economy.

The process of salt mining is quite simple and requires  hot water to be pumped underground where it mixes with the salt deposit before being pumped back to the surface. This extremely salty water mixture is then distilled, leaving behind pure salt.  Over the life of a salt mine, a cavern develops, which in this case, because of the unique geology of New York and the impermeability of salt, makes a great storage facility for liquefied propane.

In fact, Seneca lake over the years has been home to many different storage facilities  and currently has one operating near the proposed US Salt site. Not only will the LPG storage facility proposed by Inergy be a great benefit to those who use propane regularly through out the Seneca Lake region, it will also create jobs and of course raise the local tax base.

Of course the anti-development crown are chanting this storage project will impact the local community’s water supply.  Nothing could be further from the truth. For example, here is the Village of Watkins Glen 2010 water supply report that shows no abnormalities.  They have had similar projects for decades.

#3 Gas-Free Seneca is inflating the opposition to the project. Earlier this week, a petition was presented at the Watkins Glen Village Board meeting. The actual petition had something like 4,000 signatures on it.  However, when the presenter was asked how many were residents of Watkins Glen no answer could be supplied. Why? that’s a great question. Wineries have, over the last few months, been soliciting signatures from tourists visiting the region.  Anecdotal information and baseless speculation have been used to convince patrons to sign these conveniently placed “petitions” – usually by the cash registers and doors. Here is one such example.

Petition found inside restaurant at Seneca Lake

#4 There is no correlation with natural gas development in Pennsylvania or New York. The misconceived connection between natural gas development and this propane storage facility is the result of deliberate mixed messaging on the part of anti-gas groups.  Throughout New York, many of these groups have tried to blur reality to promote their cause.  We have seen the same thing in Chenango and Delaware Counties, where NYRAD has continually attempted to rally anti-gas support by misleading everyone to believe the Leatherstocking distribution pipeline (6 inches) is really a transmission line (30 inches) and that everyone in the proposed project area will lose their property to eminent domain.  At “Big Splash,” Gas-Free Seneca used the same tactic. Again, neither of these things could be farther from the truth.

The ultimate decision on this project lays in the hands of the New York DEC, not the Village of Watkins Glen. This type of project has been done safely many times and could bring cheaper propane to the region in addition to jobs and an improved tax base. That is why many of the residents in the region support this project and anything these anti-gas groups say must be taken with a grain of salt.



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