Schuyler County legislators for and against the proposal to store liquid petroleum gas near Seneca Lake are looking to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for an answer. The Schuyler County Legislature passed a resolution last year supporting the proposal and asking state officials to approve or deny the plan.
A state Department of Environmental Conservation administrative law judge has not yet made a decision as to whether there should be more hearings concerning the safety of the storage. The issues were first raised two years ago. Schuyler County Legislature Chairman Dennis Fagan supports the Crestwood company and its U.S. Salt facility in the town of Reading where the gas storage would be located in underground salt caverns. Fagan said U.S. Salt is one of the largest taxpayers and manufacturing employers in the county.
“And I’m concerned that if the project isn’t improved, that the parent company of U.S. Salt may ultimately close its doors," Fagan said. "The loss of 130 good paying jobs would be catastrophic to our local economy. I'm also absolutely convinced that this project can proceed without having any adverse impact on the tourism or local wineries in the area. This particular project is going to have virtually no aesthetic or visual impact on the landscape.”
Fagan said the technical staff at the DEC already stated that the project is approvable. And he said the reason he is urging state officials to make a decision now is because protests have been ongoing at the facility.
“There’s been over 500 arrests," Fagan said. "It is costing us a significant amount of money with our district attorney to prosecute these cases, with our sheriff to make the arrests, temporarily house some of these people, to provide security at the court site and now they’re asking for us, for some of the defendants, to provide a public defender.”
Legislator Michael Lausell said he believes the risks of the facility far outweigh the benefits.
“The worst thing that could happen is the integrity of the cavern could be compromised,” Lausell said.
Lausell is worried that gas could migrate out through the cavern to above ground. Lausell and other opponents said they were able to get concessions from Crestwood to eliminate its truck and train transportation of propane in the area. The proposal now is it would be done via pipeline.
Lausell wrote to the governor asking him to let the process run its course.
“What I feel is it is important to urge him is to not react to the pressure that gets put on the governor to make a decision when this is already going through a hearing to resolve these issues," Lausell said. "In my opinion it seems there is ample ground to let the hearing take place and study these safety issues to get to the bottom of whether in fact it would be okay or not.”
And as both sides rally the towns and villages in Schuyler County to pass their own resolutions weighing in on the debate, everyone continues to wait on an answer from the governor and the DEC.