The people of the Finger Lakes region are rejoicing at news today that a controversial liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) storage project proposed for Seneca Lake will not go forward as planned. Citing concerns about community character of the Finger Lakes, cavern stability, and risks to the agri-tourism economy, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) denied a permit application for the project, presenting a likely insurmountable hurdle for proponents.
Citing threats to public safety and the growing local tourism economy, opponents of the project have pressed state leaders to deny the permit to Finger Lakes LPG, which had sought to store 88.2 million gallons of LPG in abandoned salt caverns alongside Seneca Lake.
The news is a huge victory for a coalition of residents, local elected officials, and business owners who have long fought to protect Seneca Lake and their regional economy, at times attracting national media attention for their cause.
“This is truly a great day for our region and we thank everyone who helped make this day possible,” said Yvonne Taylor, Vice President of Gas Free Seneca. “Don’t ever let anyone tell you that David can’t beat Goliath. We raise a glass of Finger Lakes bubbly to all who have worked so hard in our region and offer a toast to Governor Cuomo and his administration for finally standing up for the people of our region and keeping us safe from this dirty and dangerous gas storage project. Governor Cuomo has proposed a clean energy vision that is the right way forward for the Finger Lakes and the rest of the state. We applaud DEC Commissioner Seggos for agreeing that this proposal was counter to this vision and too dangerous for our community.”
“The Finger Lakes for 150-plus years has been building a reputation for fine wine, local farm to fork food, and a way of life that can be passed on from generation to generation. Today, Governor Cuomo and DEC Commissioner Seggos did the right thing to protect the People of the Finger Lakes, protecting and preserving our legacy businesses and ensuring that the economic growth of Finger Lakes Wine Country continues without threat,” said Will Ouweleen, Secretary of Finger Lakes Wine Business Coalition, and Vintner, O-Neh-Da and Eagle Crest Vineyards, Est. 1872. “With over 20 percent of Finger Lakes wineries running on solar power, renewable energy is the future to energy independence for the great State of New York. We are not the gas and garbage dump for America, we are and will continue to be one of the most exciting wine regions in the world. Excelsior!”
The nonprofit environmental law organization Earthjustice has represented Gas Free Seneca in proceedings and had been poised to challenge the project in court, if needed.
“Undaunted by an out-of-state energy company, the people of the Finger Lakes stood up to protect everything they hold dear. Today they won. We’re proud to have worked alongside this brave and spirited coalition and hope their success inspires and emboldens communities throughout the country that are fighting fossil fuel infrastructure projects,” said Earthjustice Attorney Deborah Goldberg. “The people of the DEC clearly have taken their duty to protect New York’s people and environment seriously. We heartily thank the DEC officials who took the time to thoroughly analyze the proposal before them and conclude that this project poses too great a threat to move forward.”
Crestwood, a Texas-based corporation proposed a plan to store dangerous, explosive liquefied petroleum gases in abandoned salt caverns under the shores of Seneca Lake. The unlined salt caverns along Seneca Lake were never engineered for storage, yet Crestwood proposed storing up to 40 million barrels of explosive propane in a manner that has caused injuries and deaths, large fires, evacuations and major property loss in other locations.
Members of the tourism industry highlighted that Crestwood’s proposal would bring almost no economic benefit to New Yorkers. Crestwood promised to bring three to five permanent jobs to the region, paling in comparison to the 60,000 tourism jobs in the Finger Lakes that would be jeopardized if the plan was implemented.
Over 450 Seneca Lake property owners, 500 local and regional businesses on the Gas Free Seneca and Finger Lakes Wine Business coalitions, several local wineries and vineyard owners, and 32 municipalities representing 1.2 million New Yorkers oppose the proposal. Gas Free Seneca was the first organization founded to oppose the storage proposal. It is the lead petitioner in the legal battle against the proposed gas storage facility in the Finger Lakes.
Today’s decision means the project cannot go forward.