EarthJustice Jumps on the Misinformation Bandwagon in the Finger Lakes
We covered the hearings and protests associated with Inergy’s Finger Lakes LPG storage project in Watkins Glen pretty extensively over the last two years (here, here, here and here). We also provided details about the project including its proposed location in caverns previously used for the same purpose and the long history of LPG and natural gas storage in the region. Now we’re heading back to the Finger Lakes as EarthJustice attempts to stake a late entry into the four year long discussion using misinformation to do so.
Inergy’s Finger Lakes LPG Storage project in Watkins Glen, New York is entering its fourth year of permitting and review before the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Local anti-development group Gas Free Seneca (GFS) announced earlier this month that a new face would be joining the opposition: San Francisco-based EarthJustice.
GFS had been previously unsuccessful in its attempts to gain EarthJustice’s attention, according to GFS co-founder Joseph Campbell.
“We had contacted them before to get them interested and weren’t having a lot of success,” Campbell told the Star Gazette last week.
The tipping point for EarthJustice’s late entry, Campbell said, was a recent blog post from local blogger Peter Mantius that “outlined the structural problems with the caverns Inergy wants to use for storage”.
An activist in journalist’s clothing, Mantius is a key driver behind Gas Free Seneca. GFS co-founder Yvonne Taylor told an Ithaca radio station in early February that Mantius inspired the group’s formation after he spoke publicly against the Inergy project.
Energy In Depth previously uncovered that a significant portion of funding for Mantius’ blog “DCBureau.org” comes from the anti-development, Ithaca-based Park Foundation (see graph below). Park also supports the Sustainable Markets Foundation, the group that provides tax-exempt status to GFS. It gave that foundation $200,000 in 2012, in fact. Plus, Park has funded EarthJustice to the tune of $375,000 since 2006, bringing its total investment in these groups to $1.13 million over the last eight years.
Park, therefore, has funded GFS (through the Sustainable Markets Foundation), the group representing GFS and the news service that supposedly made it all happen. Any suggestion GFS had to work hard to get help from EarthJustice is belied by these facts. It’s all one effort under different guises.
As for the “structural problems” that Mantius alleged, multiple media reports here, here and here, as well as DEC analysis have all disproved Mantius’ claims and further demonstrated his willingness to selectively report facts that advance his views.
Nonetheless, EarthJustice has decided to stake its interest in this project on Mantius. For all the hoopla surrounding its arrival, there has been minimal attention on the tired song and dance that EarthJustice is likely to perform in Watkins Glen.
Just last year, EarthJustice attempted to fight Inergy on another critical energy infrastructure project and lost on the facts. In that case, EarthJustice claimed that FERC, the project’s regulator, did not adequately review the potential impacts of the MARC I Pipeline project and attempted to substitute its policy views for the experience and expertise of the FERC. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ultimately found that EarthJustice’s arguments were without merit.
EarthJustice Managing Attorney Deborah Goldberg has already hinted that the group will attempt to repurpose the same strategy in Watkins Glen. Last week, Goldberg told the Star Gazette that she believes the Finger Lakes LPG storage project should undergo another round of public comment.
Keep in mind that EarthJustice both refused appeals from GFS and elected not to participate in the public process for the past 4 years – did not submit comments or attend public hearings and otherwise disregarded numerous opportunities to involve itself with the project in a constructive manner.
Unfairly delaying the project further will have real consequences.
The Finger Lakes LPG storage project will spur a $40 million capital investment in Schuyler County, create 50 skilled construction jobs and 8-10 high quality permanent jobs, and generate critical tax revenue for a community that is currently struggling to close a $1.1 million budget gap for its local school district.
The project is a critical infrastructure project that will improve energy reliability and affordability for hundreds of thousands of New York residents and businesses. It will also enhance accessibility to and promote the use of clean burning alternative fuels – a key objective of EarthJustice’s own agenda.