Nel's New Day

December 24, 2014

Thank you, Santa!

Filed under: Environment — trp2011 @ 3:55 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

This week Santa was joined by Mrs. Claus and seven elves in an environmental protest following nine weeks of protesting that saw 170 arrests. Monday’s arrests followed 28 arrests a week ago led by many prominent local musicians the day after 41 arrests led by local teachers. Crestwood Mainstream, a Texas fracking company, wants to dump two billion cubic feet of explosive methane gas in salt mines near the shores of Seneca Lake in upstate New York. The New York State DEC temporarily halted plans to stockpile propane and butane (LPG) due to ongoing concerns for safety, health and the environment, but the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) gave approval for the storage despite geological instabilities, fault lines, possible salinization of the lake, and public health concerns. [Photo credit, We Are Seneca Lake.]


The unlined salt caverns, formed by decades of salt mining, date back to the Erie Canal days of New York’s history and are not designed to serve as vessels for highly pressurized, explosive gases. FERC gave approval for storage in a cavern that has had a history of instability, including a collapsed roof. Repressurizing the cavern with compressed gas can force brine or methane through cracks and fissures.

Salt caverns are more prone to catastrophic accidents than the other more common types of underground storage for natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas. Eighteen instances of catastrophic failure of underground gas storage facilities, all in salt cavern facilities, have occurred since 1972. Several have included explosions with fire and death as well as evaluations of entire towns. A 2001 explosion in Kansas came from gas migrating seven miles to Hutchinson where the methane rose to the surface in abandoned brine wells. The explosion killed two people, destroyed buildings, and required the evaluation of residents.

In trying to justify their claim that storing methane in the salt caverns was not a serious problem, Crestwood used the number of catastrophic occurrences in all types of gas storage facilities, not just salt caverns. Although a small percentage of the gas storage facilities, they account for all the catastrophic incidents. The safety of highly pressurized natural gas stored in a salt cavern beneath the bank of a large lake that serves as a drinking water source has never been evaluated. Seneca Lake is a drinking water source for 100,000 people, and salt contamination cannot be remediated. Last summer Crestwood Midstream was at fault in a million-gallon spill of toxic fracking waste into a drinking water reservoir in tribal land in North Dakota. The accident killed vegetation, poisoned the soil, and threatened Lake Sakakawea.

The area near the proposed storage is a renowned part of New York’s grape and wine industry that annually contributes $4.8 billion to the state’s economy. The Finger Lakes area was also named the #1 Lake Vacation in the world last year. Over 20 million people visit the area each year.

Among those opposing Crestwood’s actions are more than 200 businesses, more than 60 wineries, 11 municipalities (including neighboring Watkins Glen), and thousands and thousands of residents in the Finger Lakes region who are concerned about the threat it poses to human health, drinking water and the local economy, including the tourism industry.

Santa, aka Stefan Senders, explained his participation in the protests by saying, “The North Pole is melting fast due to climate change and I felt we should throw our considerable weight behind this nice bunch of folks called “We Are Seneca Lake.’ “

Sandra Steingraber, a biologist, further explained:

“As a greenhouse gas, methane is carbon dioxide’s younger and more dangerous brother. Methane is eighty-six times more powerful at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. Methane will inevitably leak from this facility as well as the surrounding pipeline infrastructure.”

santaarrested2 When he tried to block the gates of the facility, Santa and his party were charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct in front of children. As he was hauled off in handcuffs, he called out to them, “Don’t worry, boys and girls, I’ll be out of jail in time to deliver your presents.” Santa is already giving children their presents—trying to save the planet.

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