Appalachian Basin

We Asked For It, We Got It…We’re Still Going to Protest

Another weekend, another protest in Watkins Glen as the “fracktivist” proclaimed “Summer of Solidarity” continues.  As such, we’ll be heading up to Watkins Glen Friday afternoon for another protest. This protest is against Inergy’s proposed LPG storage facility, where Gas Free Seneca, although not the organizer of this event, continues to speak out against the project. For our part, before the protest we will spend time in solidarity with our communities at two games celebrating America’s pastime: the Binghamton Mets minor league baseball game, thanks to the nearly 1,000 tickets provided at the 3rd Annual Cabot Community Picnic, and the Little League World Series where the San Antonio team (from the heart of the Eagle Ford Shale) will play New Jersey.

Fact vs. Fiction on Inergy Plans

We’ve already discussed Inergy quite a bit while gearing up for last week and this Friday’s protests in Watkins Glen, but there’s a great deal more information to be shared about this project. Here’s a basic breakdown:

  • Inergy’s plans call for storing liquefied petroleum gas – also known as propane – which is a safe, clean-burning fuel that heats the homes and businesses of approximately 25 percent of Schuyler County residents.
  • Propane has been safely stored underground in Watkins Glen for more than 40 years without incident.
  • This project will provide a capital investment of approximately $40 million in Schuyler County, with 8 – 10 permanent jobs and over 50 construction jobs.  This is in addition to the 15 jobs U.S. Salt has added in the last four years.
  • Inergy does NOT develop or produce this gas….they simply transport, store, and deliver it to consumers. By virtue of this fact, they have absolutely nothing to do with hydraulic fracturing.
  • Inergy employs 297 New York State residents. More than 100 work at US Salt, which has a long history of being an active supporter of the local community. In fact, US Salt is the largest employer in the county and Inergy LP is the largest taxpayer

After public comments were made during the Department of Environmental Conservation hearings last year, Inergy responded to concerns of residents and business owners. Let’s take a look at some of the concerns raised and the facts on the proposed storage facility.

The facility creates “an industrial landscape in [the] area” not compatible with other businesses.

Fact:  LPG has been stored underground on the US Salt property and near the Finger Lakes project location for over 40 years.  Texas Eastern Transmission Company (“TEPPCO”) (now owned by Enterprise Products) stored propane from 1964 until 1984 in the salt caverns on US Salt property.  TEPPCO stored more than 3 million barrels of LPG in these caverns during the 20-year period, which is far greater than the 2.1 million barrels that Inergy has requested authorization to store.

Today, TEPPCO’s LPG storage facility across the street from US Salt’s property has the capacity to store 1.2 million barrels of LPG, and this facility has safely stored LPG underground for over 25 years.

The proposed location for the Finger Lakes project is surrounded by Inergy’s Seneca natural gas storage facility, which has safely stored 1.45 Bcf of natural gas for utilities and other customers for more than 15 years.  It is also next to US Salt’s manufacturing operations, which has been a cornerstone in Watkins Glen for more than 100 years. A truck repair facility, an inactive solid waste transfer station, and a highway garage also already exist in close proximity to where the project’s proposed surface facility would be located.

Moreover, numerous other industrial facilities exist within the Town of Reading and Village of Watkins Glen.  For example, two railroad lines operate through Reading for freight usage, and four natural gas and LPG pipelines traverse the town.  Two salt production companies (US Salt and Cargill) are major employers, as is BMS Manufacturing, a metal fabrication and machining company.

Yet, with this broad mix of industrial and commercial activity over the past 50 years, other businesses (including neighboring wineries) have flourished and attendance at the Watkins Glen State Park has increased.

There will be a major rise in truck traffic in Watkins Glen.

Fact: Traffic generated by the project will be minimal, with less than 15 total vehicles (including trucks and employees) expected to enter or exit the site in any given hour.  Two truck loading bays will be built on the surface facility site off of NYS Route 14A with the capacity to load up to 30 trucks per day over a typical 12-hour daily operation.  Access to the site is planned via one full access driveway to Route 14A.  There is no direct schedule for tanker truck arrivals.  Any trucks that arrive when the facility is closed will be provided ample space on the site (and not on NYS Route 14A) to park and queue.  Any trucks arriving when the site is open will be directed to the loading bays and processed.

This Project is bad for the local economy.

Fact: The Finger Lakes project will provide approximately $40 million of capital investment in Schuyler County.  The project will create 8-10 permanent full-time jobs and over 50 construction jobs.  The project will also generate property taxes for the school district, county and town.  In addition, additional local storage should help to reduce propane costs for regional consumers and cut traffic through the Village (noting that LPG will only be delivered via pipe and rail).

This Facility poses safety risks.

Fact: LPG storage in underground salt caverns is a responsible, safe and environmentally friendly means of providing much needed energy infrastructure.  As previously stated, underground storage has occurred at this location for over 40 years.  The depth and structural integrity of the caverns (approximately 2040’ to 2830’ below ground) isolates the product from ground and drinking water and the surface.  In addition, the Finger Lakes storage facility will have numerous safety controls to ensure safe operation, including emergency shutdown systems, wellhead controls, flow meters, safety valves and gas detectors.  Wellhead pressure will be monitored daily and the caverns will undergo periodic mechanical integrity testing.  Inergy has also developed operational and safety manuals to implement OSHA and process safety management standards for worker safety and accidental release responses.

The brine pond has been designed to exceed DEC Dam Safety and US Army Corps of Engineers standards.  Its numerous safety and environmental protective features include:  a double liner with leak detection system and monitoring; an engineered embankment to prevent breach of the pond; daily brine level monitoring; sufficient freeboard to account for precipitation, including a backup connection to the US Salt brine system; periodic liner testing; and repair and replacement procedures.

This Project is not needed.

Fact: The demand for propane in New York State is growing. Some 350 million gallons of propane were consumed by New Yorkers in 2009 and delivered through an infrastructure of truck, rail, pipe and storage terminals.  The residential and commercial use of propane is commonplace in Schuyler and other counties in the Finger Lakes region, and propane storage is needed.  Six counties adjacent to the Project location (Chemung, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tompkins and Yates) represent 23 million gallons of residential propane demand.

The existing propane distribution infrastructure in New York has become strained due to rising annual demand and growth has limited the amount of economical propane supply during peak periods, causing price spikes.  Six of the past ten winters the majority of New York propane retailers have been forced to secure and transport into New York alternate supply from numerous Midwestern states and as far south as Louisiana which have increased propane retailer supply costs, causing increased costs for consumers.  Last winter, propane prices increased as much as 25% over the year before.  Having local storage would have alleviated this price spike and saved consumers millions of dollars.

The Project will involve compressors.

Fact: The project will include six small 40 HP compressor units that will be used to unload the tank cars, three 75 HP electric pumps for the truck loading rack, three 40 HP electric driven brine pumps and four 700 HP electric driven and partially enclosed LPG injection pumps.  There will be no compression like that in existence at NYSEG’s existing Seneca Storage natural gas storage facility on US Salt’s property.  A noise study evaluated all of these sounds and determined there were no negative impacts on the nearest residents.  The proposed site is located next to a state highway and an operational railroad and, in its current state, experiences sound levels that exceed proposed levels due to the already existing highway traffic and railroad activity.

LPG will get into the local water supply.

Fact: One of the reasons underground storage facilities in salt caverns are much safer in terms of safety and environmental protection is that salt formations are almost perfectly impermeable.  Inergy has taken all necessary precautions to prevent leaks, including mechanical integrity tests of the caverns.

Brine from the brine pond could leak and get into the water supply or into the lake.

Fact: Given the design of the brine pond, a failure and subsequent release of the brine to the environment in significant quantities is unlikely to occur.  As part of its Operations, Maintenance and Contingency Plan, Inergy will have systems in place to readily identify any potential leaks in the double liner system.  These include a leak detection system, interceptor trenches to assure that there is no groundwater uplift on the liner system, groundwater monitoring, liner performance monitoring, a liner replacement procedure, a procedure to redirect brine to US Salt’s system, a Spill Control Prevention Plan, and an Emergency Response Plan.  Again, Inergy is taking all necessary precautions – and then some – to prevent such a failure, including the chosen liner, monitoring requirements and repair and replacement procedures.

The wooden trestle railroad bridge near Watkins Glen that is used to access the facility poses a hazard.

Fact: Regular inspections of the Watkins Glen Gorge Bridge conducted by Norfolk Southern confirm the bridge does not have any structural concerns, nor does it have any freight traffic restrictions.  Moreover, the bridge’s load carrying capacity is sufficient to handle current and expected future rail traffic.  The allowable weight of a loaded LPG rail car is 286,000 pounds gross weight, which is well within the load carrying capacity of the bridge.  Norfolk Southern has operated over the bridge since June 1, 1999.  Since that time, there have been no incidents of any kind associated with the bridge.

There are lots of small faults around, many of which aren’t even mapped.  And we’re not seismically clean.  We are in an area that does have a 3 or 4 earthquakes on occasion.

Fact: Based on data compiled by the National Geophysical Data Center and updated using USGS data, there are no risks involved at the site with earthquakes within ½ mile of any of the subject Galleries.  In addition, an Earthquake Database Search was conducted as well as a base map compiled by the National Geophysical Data Center using USGS data.  The results indicated the area continues to be a low seismicity area.

Butane and propane and some of the other components of liquefied petroleum gas can dissolve in high pressure water underground and can actually then migrate away from the source of the storage of the LP gas.

Fact: It has been found bedded salt structures, like those found on US Salt’s property, provide particularly good conditions for LPG storage.  Salt formations are almost perfectly impermeable; underground, hydrocarbons are separated from the oxygen in the air (necessary for combustion) by several hundred meters of rock; high storage pressures present no problem insofar as high pressure is the natural state of the fluids underground; and, underground storage is extremely economical in terms of land area.   Studies have shown that, with proper design of the well and careful monitoring of cavern development, large volumes of LPG can be stored safely in subsurface storage caverns, particularly after utilizing caverns for brine production.  The U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve is, in fact, stored for the most part in underground salt caverns.

The brine pond will spill over if there is a large rain event.

Fact: The brine pond is open to the atmosphere such that there will be a combination of evaporative losses and rainfall/snowmelt accumulation.  The level in the brine pond will be monitored on a daily basis and in particular during and following periods of intense rainfall.  If the brine level ever exceeds elevation 837.0’ and begins to encroach on the minimum freeboard (3 feet), then brine will be pumped to US Salt to manufacture salt products.

Gas Free Seneca Demands a QRA

The above offers a pretty comprehensive explanation of the project, but there’s still more. One of the requests of the leaders of Gas Free Seneca, specifically Joe Campbell and Yvonne Taylor, was for a Quantitative Risk Analysis (QRA) to be done by an independent company and paid for by Inergy.

Specifically, as can be seen from the conversation above, they wanted Quest Consultants to conduct the QRA. So, what did Inergy do? They hired Quest Consultants, the company GFS selected, to conduct a QRA of the proposed facility and they paid for it. Everyone should be happy right? Well, they wouldn’t be having a protest if that was the case.

Quest’s analyses didn’t line up with GFS’s agenda and so, despite having had their demands met, this special interest NIMBY group is still protesting the facility. Now to be fair, GSF did not organize this protest, but according to Taylor:

But we are in support of anything people do that is an effort to stop the facility and will support any non-violent civil disobedience,” said Yvonne Taylor, Gas Free Seneca’s second co-founder. “We’ve called our local political representatives and begged for some support but have gotten nothing while the facility is continuing to scar the landscape and move boldly forward. People are just feeling extremely frustrated by that.

Why is that? Did the QRA conducted by Quest find anything that would cause alarm and warrant opposing the project? Let’s see:

A quantitative risk analysis by an Oklahoma firm says Inergy Midstream’s proposed liquid gas storage and transfer station in Reading is no more dangerous than other, similar facilities.

The 66-page QRA concludes that “the hazards and risk associated with the Finger Lakes LPG facility are similar to those from LPG storage, transport and processing facilities worldwide.”  It adds the risks are “not unusual for industrial activities handling flammable materials.”

Quest added that even if the liquid line were to rupture during cavern injection mode, and the release was horizontal, and the wind was coming from the southwest at a low speed, and the vapor cloud did not ignite immediately, the flammable vapor cloud would have a one in 204,000,000 chance per year of forming that way.

The document said there are only two areas outside the facility boundary where a person has a risk level greater than a one chance in 10,000 of being killed per year. One area is uninhabited and the other owned by an LPG trucking company.

And, so we end up with another case of a company – the largest taxpayer and employer in Schuyler County – being targeted for a project they have spent countless hours answering questions about and went above and beyond to satisfy the requests of residents in the town and those surrounding it.  Further, it’s a project in a facility used for decades for the same purpose proposed by an industry with a long history of operating in the region alongside other industries.  Oh, and about those odds – they remind me of a line from Dumb and Dumber where Jim Carey’s character, after being told the likelihood of the girl dating him was at least a million to one, says “You’re telling me I’ve got a chance, then.”  That seems to be the GFS position as well.  How appropriate.

Stumped?  Me too, but with logic like the following, it makes a little more sense. See if you can follow this train of thought:

Note that if an accident occurred to one tenth of one percent of the trucks, that would be 35 trucks/ year, or about 3 trucks/ month, filled with LPG – heavier than air and highly combustible – a disaster waiting to happen…to whom?

Do you think this is The American Petroleum Institute’s real agenda for the Finger Lakes?

Encourage the Inergy LPG storage plan to store and then distribute gas from fracked wells.

This will allow at least one major accident, which will happen, to kill and maim enough locals and tourists to destroy the tourist industry.

This will lead to the demise of the wine industry and begin to wipe out farming.

Remaining locals who can afford to leave, will; and those who can’t, well….

The industrialization of this rural area will spread, as a cancer metastasizes, from key nodes, such as Watkins Glen, to the entire region.

Thereby making the Finger Lakes open for fracking!

It’s hard to imagine a more rabid case of fear-mongering.  Just ponder it a bit and ask yourself who’s more likely to have the facts correct.  It won’t take long.  I promise.


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