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Propane storage urged in caverns

WATKINS GLEN — The state’s propane industry is pushing Gov. Andrew Cuomo to clear the way for a long-planned underground natural gas and propane storage facility in the Finger Lakes region near Watkins Glen.

Speaking at the annual conference of the New York Propane Gas Association in that city, President Rick Cummings said safety concerns, voiced by the region’s wine and tourism industry, are unfounded and urged the state Department of Environmental Conservation to issue permits.

Texas-based Crestwood-Inergy wants to pump both liquefied natural gas and propane for storage into caverns near Seneca Lake that were left behind from salt mining decades ago. The project has been under DEC review for five years. “Propane storage is nothing new to the Finger Lakes,” said Cummings in a statement. “History has shown our industry can safely serve consumers.”

Undergound gas storage in the region goes backs decades. Last used for natural gas storage in 1984, the caverns at Watkins Glen could provide key infrastructure should natural gas hydrofracking be allowed in the state.

Lawmakers in Seneca and Ontario counties, which border the lake, have voted to oppose the cavern plan. Schuyler County lawmakers have voted in favor, while the remaining lakeshore county, Yates, has filed a letter of concern.

DEC officials did not provide comment in response to Cummings’ statement.

Cummings said the project could create a “strategic reserve” of 88.2 million gallons of propane “easing prices and supply constraints throughout the region … this is a safe necessary project that can make a huge difference in a short amount of time.”

Related: Propane battles natural gas for share of U.S. transport market

During a propane shortage last winter, New York households paid up to an extra $100 million, according to figures from the association, which represents the industry and dealers throughout the state.

New York and New England get propane primarily from a pipeline that travels from the Gulf Coast. Last year, that pipeline was used to carry natural gas byproducts to accommodate the surge in natural gas production from hydrofracking in Pennsylvania, leading to shortages and price spikes.

Last winter, New Yorkers paid $410 more per household, totaling $100 million in economic harm, because adequate supplies were unavailable. About 240,000 households in the state, primarily those in rural areas, use propane as their primary source of heat.

This summer, about 60 other vineyard owners wrote to Cuomo urging that DEC reject the gas storage plan. Among the vineyards signing the letter were Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars, the vintners largely credited with sparking the boom in European-quality wines in the region. Other signers included Glenora, Heron Hill, Hosmer, Shalestone, Frontenac Point, Goose Watch, Fox Run, Knapp, King Ferry and McGregor wineries.

Gas Free Seneca, a coalition of opponents, has retained the environmental legal group Earthjustice, which successfully defended local government fracking bans from challenges from the drilling industry. The state’s highest court recently ruled such bans, based on local zoning laws, are legal.

 

This article was written by Brian Nearing from Times Union and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.