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Schumer, Gillibrand address gas storage in the FL

On Wednesday, New York State Senators Charles Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand called on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to give full consideration to the “well argued concerns” of their constituents in the Finger Lakes.The senators acted in unison to petition the FERC to open hearings for public comment, given significant local opposition and concerns underscored by recent disasters such as the Porter Ranch accident in California.The letter addressed to Norman Bay, the Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission read in part, “Originally, the project scope was open for public comment, but it appears as though FERC will not evaluate public comment prior to a rendering a decision on whether to grand the extension.” “New federal regulations are anticipated for gas storage and any permit extension must be after such regulations are developed and adopted and certainly not sooner,” said Will Ouweleen, Secretary of the Finger Lakes Wine Business Coalition and winemaker at Eagle Crest Vineyards.The item being debated is whether to extend a two-year-old permit, which is nearing expiration, to expand fracked methane gas storage in abandoned salt caverns on the shores of Seneca Lake. Seneca Lake is the largest of Finger Lakes in New York.Ouweleen said that, “At a minimum, FERC owes the public an opportunity to put our concerns on the record, prior to any consideration of a permit extension.”His organization, the Finger Lakes Wine Business Coalition represents more than 150 local vineyards, wineries, craft breweries, restaurants, farms, and entrepreneurs who are stewards of the Finger Lakes wine industry. More than 58,000 jobs and $4.8 billion in economic activity are at risk due to ill-timed and poorly sited plans to transform wine country into gas country, according to opponents.”Times have changed and sadly, a lot has happened since the permit was first issued in 2014,” explained Ouweleen. He continued, pointing out that “A world-wide glut for gas, oil and LPG (Liquefied Propane Gas) has caused an artificial shortage of storage, and new sacrifice zones like the Finger Lakes are being planned to ease the glut temporarily; but gas storage is not in our region’s shared vision.”Gas Free Seneca, the founding organization and lead petitioner in the legal battle against Crestwood, submitted comments to FERC when it’s subsidiary, Arlington Gas Storage, recently argued for a two year extension of their permit to expand natural gas storage. Gas Free Seneca represents 366 regional businesses and has facilitated the drafting of resolutions from 31 municipalities across the Finger Lakes Region, representing 1.2 Million New York residents who oppose Crestwood’s plans.Through their legal team at Earthjustice, Gas Free Seneca stated that the original “public convenience and necessity” argument for gas storage expansion was no longer valid, due to the recent glut of natural gas in the market, and that any extension for build out should be denied. They contend that “Arlington had ample opportunity to begin construction on the expansion, and they sat on their rights for two years.””Now is the time for FERC to start heeding the science and the voices of the people that these projects impact, by rejecting these bad proposals from the gas industry,” said Yvonne Taylor, Vice President of Gas Free Seneca.Joseph Campbell, the President of Gas Free Seneca pointed out that “Our organization has spent the past five years outlining the myriad of reasons to reject all permits for gas storage along Seneca’s shores, including the negative scientific, economic, health, community character, noise, and safety issues associated with this ill-conceived plan.” He continued by pointing out that, “We applaud Senators Gillibrand and Schumer for supporting the overwhelming number of their constituents who have voiced their opposition to this project.”Schumer and Gillibrand’s letter concluded, “Given the significant public opposition to this project, it is imperative that a public comment period is opened before FERC makes a final decision on this extension. The Commission’s comment periods are the only mechanism by which the public can participate in the decision making process, and we ask that FERC continues to allow the concerned citizens the opportunity to make their voices heard.” The businesses, municipalities, residents and organizations involved are currently awaiting the decisions on both methane storage expansion and the LPG storage project in the Finger Lakes from the FERC and New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

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