(EnviroNews New York) — Watkins Glen, New York — Over the past several months, protests have been fierce surrounding the already-approved expansion of an underground, unlined, salt-cavern, methane storage facility under the shores of New York’s Seneca Lake. Those direct-action campaigns continued on Tuesday August 18, 2015, as 19 protestors, including grandparents, were charged with trespassing and hauled off in the paddy wagon by local Schuyler County deputies.
This is certainly not the first time determined activists have been detained for their uprising over the storage plan. Incredibly, Monday’s event brought the grand total of arrestees to 359 since the actions began — a number that locals note is now higher than the widely-acknowledged 350-ppm CO2 threshold for a stable climate.
Though the go-ahead was given to Crestwood Midstream in October of 2014 to break ground on the project, the company has not done so as of yet. Following the green light from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) last fall, “there was nothing left for [protestors] to do but put their bodies on the line,” Lindsay Speer, Director of Creating Change told EnviroNews New York.
The group “We Are Seneca Lake” with its “Seneca Lake Defenders” were on the scene, where a group of 19 formed a human-chain that blocked the entrance to Crestwood Midstream’s entrance on Route 14 in what they called “a peaceful act of civil disobedience.”
We Are Seneca Lake said in a statement that none of the 19 hemmed up this time around had been arrested previously in any Seneca protests, suggesting the number of people willing to put their safety and freedom on the line to stop the project is on the rise.
Many of the demonstrators were reportedly Catholic, and read from Pope Francis’ recently released “climate encyclical” as they blocked the path into Crestwood’s entrance. Video footage of the ensuing arrests, was captured by bystanders.
The intense fight against this proposal gained even more attention earlier this year when Josh Fox, filmmaker of the legendary HBO Gasland films, turned out and added his own name to the running tally of arrestees — people all forced to spend a little time in the crowbar-motel on behalf of Crestwood’s ploy.
In May, Fox released another nat-gas film focused exclusively on the Seneca Lake situation, wherein the filmmaker shines light on FERC for its hasty “rubber stamp” method of approval for pipelines and other applications for national infrastructure facilities, like the one already approved for Crestwood at the Seneca site.
Fox in his short film, reminds viewers of a catastrophe from back in November of 1980 at Lake Peigneur in Lousisana, where an oil company drilled a well into a salt mine underneath the lake. The disaster that ensued was one for the record books, after the drill-rig collapsed and 1.5 billion gallons of water rushed down into the borehole like water draining out of a bathtub — emptying the entire lake and swallowing up the rig and other boats in the process.
In addition to the FERC-regulated natural gas permit being protested by We Are Seneca Lake, Crestwood also has a separate plan to store an additional 88 million gallons of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) on the same site, under the beaches of Seneca — a plot outraged locals say poses a huge risk to the lake, which provides drinking water to over 100,000 people, while increasing the risk for an explosion.
Seneca is the largest in the glacial Finger Lakes group of 11, and is called the “lake trout capital of the world.” In addition to providing potable h2o for tens of thousands of people, it also provides agricultural water for an array of crops including wine grapes.
Reports from the ground informed EnviroNews New York the arrests occurred around 7:15 am EST this morning, and that all 19 protestors had been freed from jail in quick fashion by 7:55 am.
We Are Seneca Lake published a press release detailing the events of protest, and the corresponding arrests. The release honors all 19 arrested by name, and shows that with the exception of a 28-year-old and four people in their forties, all the other protestors were in their fifties, sixties, and seventies.
The fact these demonstrators were not youngsters, rather older and established members of the community, reinforces a rising trend that we have been watching at EnviroNews — a movement where more and more grandmas and grandpas seem to be willing to get their skin in the game — quite literally and indeed physically.
The arrests of free-speech fracking activist grandmothers Vera Scroggins in Pennsylvania and Alma Hasse in Idaho have brought attention to this growing cohort of activists nationwide.
The press release from We Are Seneca Lake can be read below in its entirety.