Pushing back the frackers in New York

May 17, 2017

Joan McKiernan reports on the battle to stop fracking from poisoning the Finger Lakes.

WE ARE Seneca Lake campaigners won an important victory in their years-long fight against fossil fuel expansion in New York state, pushing back plans to store dangerous methane in caverns under Seneca Lake.

Since 2014, activists have organized an innovative campaign of civil disobedience. They won huge support from activists who traveled to the area to protest, and faced police and judges who joined in support of the gas company, jailing peaceful protesters who are trying to protect their health and environment.

Campaigners demonstrated in the worst of icy winter conditions, and over the years, more than 600 people of all ages--some of them in their 90s--went to jail for the cause.

Activists were also successful in mobilizing support from all sectors of the community, including local business owners--the Finger Lakes wineries and restaurants--who are opposed to the gas storage because local jobs and businesses would be threatened by the proposed gas storage and pipelines, with the accompanying inevitable leaks, and water and air pollution.

Climate activists march against fossil fuel development in Seneca Lake, New York
Climate activists march against fossil fuel development in Seneca Lake, New York (We Are Seneca Lake | Twitter)

The Texas-based company Crestwood had planned to increase the storage of methane in unlined, abandoned salt caverns along the shoreline of the lake, but announced that it was withdrawing these plans last week, despite receiving approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

However, even more threatening to the local economy, which is based on agriculture, wineries and tourism, Crestwood has an absurd plan to store the extremely dangerous liquid propane gas (LPG) in lakeside salt caverns. This plan has not yet received a permit from New York state regulators and has been the focus of protest by activists across the state.

THESE PROPOSALS are all part of the relentless push to develop the fracking infrastructure in New York state. While we watch the impact of pipeline leaks in California, South Dakota and Ohio, with explosions, water and air pollution endangering communities, gas companies and local towns continue the push to use New York for the storage and movement of fracked gas.

Frack-friendly Pennsylvania continues to pump gas through New York. More and bigger pipelines are being planned to transport Pennsylvania's gas through New York. A second 16-inch Millennium Pipeline has been built, going through the Southern Tier area.

Work is ongoing on the compressor station in West Windsor, New York, to increase its capacity for gas. Windsor town council members did all they could to support the gas company, over the objections of people who live near the compressor.

Local activist Scott Clarke, who lives near the station, explained that the council changed the town's noise ordinance to 85 decibels from 40 decibels to accommodate the enlargement of the compressor. Clarke and others living near compressors have reported the health impacts suffered by local people, such as rashes, cramps and nosebleeds.

Anti-pipeline activists continue to fight these expansions and were successful in stopping the large Constitution and Northern Access pipelines, which were denied permits because of their threat to the environment.

But there is concern that the pro-fracking Trump government might intervene on the gas companies side, as they did with the Dakota Access Pipeline and Keystone XL. If so, they will be facing well-seasoned campaigners.

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