A small victory – public beats fracking industry at Seneca Lake
Seven years ago, Arlington Storage Company began plans to expand an underground operation to store natural gas from fracking in abandoned salt mines Seneca Lake, a small town in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York.
In 2014 the project to store natural gas pried from underground rock in Pennsylvania by hydraulic fracturing gained federal approval. That same year, a grassroots coalition—We Are Seneca Lake—began efforts to stop Arlington’s plans. Over the next two years, police made more than 650 arrests of protesters aged 18 to 92 who engaged in civil disobedience on company property. On Wednesday, Arlington, a subsidiary of Crestwood Midstream Partners, announced that it was abandoning one part of the two-part Seneca Lake Storage Project:
“Despite its best efforts, Arlington has not been successful in securing long-term contractual commitments from customers that would support completion of the Gallery 2 Expansion Project,” it wrote. “Accordingly, Arlington has discontinued efforts to complete the Gallery 2 Expansion Project.”
Opposition leaders were a bit stunned, but happy:
“We’re all surprised and delighted by the news,” said Sandra Steingraber, an activist and scholar in residence at Ithaca College. […]
Steingraber said she thinks the various opposition campaigns, from the hundreds of arrested protesters to organized lobbying by local businesses, played a role in the project’s demise. “The larger point is that if we take Arlington at its word that it thought it could get contracts for this gas and it can’t, I have to believe we really affected the social license of this company,” she said.
Laura Salamendra, a member of We Are Seneca Lake, made a point important to liberal activists everywhere: “Don’t think people can’t make a difference? People can prevail.”
Victorious opponents of the fracked gas part of the Seneca Lake Storage Project won’t get much of a breather, however. Crestwood has not given up its plans for using the salt caverns to store up to 88 million gallons of liquefied petroleum gas—aka propane. This was always planned to be the larger part of the project.
Another opposition group, Gas Free Seneca, stated earlier this week that it will now seek to have the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission take back its approval of the LPG project:
“Crestwood should see the writing on the wall where 32 municipalities across the Finger Lakes region, representing 1.2 million residents, are on record opposing gas storage on Seneca Lake, and they should withdraw their applications to store LPG in these unsafe salt caverns as well,” said Gas Free Seneca President Joseph Campbell. “They are clearly not wanted here.”
If there is any hope of keeping average global temperatures from rising more than 3.6° Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels, at least 80 percent of the world’s fossil fuel reserves—including natural gas—have got to be kept in the ground. That means new fossil fuel infrastructure with a lifespan of half-a-century or more must be blocked. Doing so may take a lot more arrests.
(Originally appeared at DailyKos. Image by We Are Seneca Lake.)