Tuesday night I found myself in Watkins Glen High School at the Gas Free Seneca forum “Seneca In The Balance”. The event was extremely well organized and the speakers were top-notched. I was thoroughly impressed whole event. It seemed well attended.
The organizers had pre-forum activities involving over owners of more than 100 businesses that are currently opperating in the Seneca Lake Watershed. They included vineyardists, wineries, restaurants, bed and breakfasts, motels, hotels and others. They feel that their businesses will be affected negatively if Seneca Lake becomes the natural gas and liquid petroleum gas (LPG) storage and transport hub of the Northeast. Gas Free Seneca had prepared a letter to Governor Cuomo pointing to his Economic Development Council Initiative and how the booming agri-tourism affects the Finger Lakes Economy. It mentions “Small businesses around the region need your continuing support to ensure that our shared vision is not jeopardized by the industrialized gas storage development proposed by Crestwood.” The businesses owners present were given the opportunity to sign the letter.
The Forum had speakers presenting the concerns about storing the (LPG) in the caverns under Seneca Lakes. There was a geologist, a water quality expert, attorneys, health care professionals, activists, and local elected officials. Their information collectively made a good well-rounded argument for Governor Cuomo to deny permits for the storage of natural gas and liquid petroleum gas (LPG) in the caverns under the lake.
There were two speakers who said things that resonated with me. Dr. John Halfman, of the Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, pointed out that because of Seneca Lake’s length, width, and depth, it is the biggest of the Finger Lakes. It holds as much water as the other ten Finger Lakes combined. Dr. Halfman pointed out, “If you screw up this lake, you screw up half of our water.” The Town and Village of Geneva, and Village of Waterloo have their water treatment plants on the shores of Seneca Lake.
Another presenter, Steven Churchill, Seneca County Legislator, spoke about the government’s responsibility in protecting the area residents. He emphasized the responsibility of both the elected officials and the constituents. “It is our elected official’s job to represent, but it is our job to deliver the message.” This forum should help us to deliver the message.
Churchill also talked about Saefty Issues. He pointed out that on January 1986, the Challenge Space Shuttle explosion, killing its crew members within 73 seconds after blasting off. The reason was a flawed O-Ring. In April 1986, there was the Chernobyl Nuclear accident in the Ukraine occurred because of an operator error. In April 2010, the BP Horizon Oil Explosion occurred because of equipment failure. March 2011, the Fukushina Nuclear Reactor catastrophic failure was because of a volcano and tsunami. His point is simple…it is easy to say that the LPG Storage underneath Seneca Lake will be safe…it is easy to say, but we are human, humans make mistakes, and even minor mistakes can have create major problems.
Our congressman, Rep. Tom Reed, has been promoting the hydrofracking for natural gas since a lobbyist from the oil and gas industry knocked on his door. According to the Open Secrets website the Oil and gas industry donated $37,000 for Reed’s 2010 campaign, $110,000 for his 2012 campaign, and $72,000 (as of December 31, 2013) for this years campaign. That is more than $200,000.
Maybe their donations helped Reed to “ come to the conclusion that gas drilling is safe.” I wonder if he ever heard of the Challenger and BP Horizon Oil explosions, or the Chernobyl and Fukushina Nuclear Reactors failures. No wonder his district director, Joe Sempolinski, reminded us that “Congressman Reed has a law degree; he is not a scientist.”
Reed began to change his fracking tune just a little while he was running against Nate Shinagawa in 2012. At the debate with Nate at Hobart-William Smith Colleges in Geneva, late October (nine days before the election) was the first time I heard Reed say that he would consider exempting the Finger Lakes Watershed from being “fracked”. He explained his thoughts in more detail at the Dryden Town Hall meeting. They could be summed up as Hydrofracturing is safe but he supports exempting the Finger Lakes Watershed aquifer because of its unique Tourist Industry.
Reed actually agrees with the business owners who attended the “Seneca In The Balance Forum” that the agri-tourism industry of the Finger Lakes region would be harmed by the high volume of truck traffic, drilling noise 24/7, unsightly gas drills lining the country side and other activities associated with fracking. That is why he would exempt the Finger Lakes Watershed from Fracking. But that is where the conflict bubbles up– those are fracking activities. Reed does not see them as LPG Storage activities.
At a Hector Town Hall meeting in August 2011, The Observer-Review reported that Rep. Reed said that he didn’t know enough about the (LPG storage and and Reading’s Transfer Station) project. He believes that the NYS Department of Environment Conservation should handle it.
On July 4, 2013, at Watkins Glen, Rep. Reed sent his district director, Joe to meet with a group of 40 Gas Free Senecans. He reiterated Reed’s stance that the NYS DEC is the agency that reviews this project, and that approval of the facility is a state issue. Yvonne Taylor, co-founder of Gas Free Seneca said, “Reed says he’s opposed to heavy industry from fracking in the Finger Lakes.” and wants Reed to advocate against the LPG Project. Sempolinski repeated that Reed feels that this is a New York State issue.
Rep. Reed uses the 10th Amendment (State’s Rights) often when he doesn’t want to get involved. But State’s Rights seems to slip his mind when in promotes the repealing the New York State SAFE Act. State’s Rights must have slipped his mind when he recently voted for H.R. 3946, the Sacramento-San Joanquin Valley emergency Water Delivery Act, which repeals existing water use laws in California. Shouldn’t that be a state’s decision?
John Campbell, the Seneca County Legislature, challenged us to deliver the message to our elected officials. Rep. Reed is our elected official. He wants no part of the LPG controversy. Reed received the lowest rating in in the New York delegation from the League of Conversation Voters. His only pro-Conservation vote was awarding Hurrican Sandy funds. If the message we send our representative won’t be heard, we should change representative.
Oh, did I mention that Martha Robertson was at the Seneca In The Balance forum?