Clergy and People of Faith Arrested in Civil Disobedience Blockade at Crestwood Midstream
Protesters Read from Pope Francis Encyclical on Climate Change; Rev. Jane Winters, Former Reading Resident, Among 17 Arrested
Watkins Glen, NY – In an act of civil disobedience, 17 gas storage protesters led by former Reading Center resident Reverend Jane Winters, formed a human blockade shortly after sunrise this morning at the north entrance of Crestwood Midstream on Route 14. The participants, from ten counties across New York State, included members of Jewish, Catholic, Protestant and Islamic faiths.
All 17 were arrested shortly before 8 a.m. by Schuyler County deputies, taken into custody, charged with trespassing, and released.
The blockaders held banners that said “People of Faith Against Crestwood: Because Creation,” and “The Climate is a Common Good,” which references Pope Francis’ recent encyclical letter on climate change
Protesters were reading aloud from the Pope’s encyclical at the time of their arrest. When the arresting officer ordered them to drop the document, they sang and prayed.
None of the protesters this morning had been previously arrested as part of the We Are Seneca Lake movement, which opposes Crestwood’s plans for methane storage expansion in lakeside salt caverns and which has been ongoing since October 2014.
The total number of arrests now stands at 296 in the eight-month-old civil disobedience campaign.
Crestwood’s methane gas storage expansion project was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last October in the face of broad public opposition and unresolved questions about geological instabilities, fault lines, and possible salinization of Seneca Lake, which serves as a source of drinking water for 100,000 people.
Presbyterian minister Reverend Jane Winters said, "From the first book of the Bible, Genesis, and continuing through the Hebrew scriptures and the Christian scriptures, God calls God's children to take care of the earth that has been entrusted to them. We frequently refer to this as being good stewards of creation. The project that Crestwood plans to expand through its Arlington subsidiary and then doubling-down with putting propane and butane in adjacent caverns does not represent good stewardship of creation. The highest calling of a Christian is to love God and love neighbor. I am out here today because I love God, especially through God's creation, and I love my neighbors, especially the ones who live here in Reading Center where I lived for 13 years.”
Ariel Gold, 40, of Ithaca said, “The Torah, the Holy Scripture of the Jewish people, instructs us to make decisions that will allow the communities of the future generations to continue to live. I consider actions that threaten life on this earth, such as the storage of explosive gasses in the fragile salt caverns of Seneca Lake, a violation of this commandment. The potential short-term profits for Crestwood are not worth the risk of the degradation and destruction of our environment and life itself. In our prophetic tradition, it is not enough to speak out against this threat to our communities and ecosystem--we must pray with our feet, as Rabbi Joshua Heschel demonstrated during the Civil Rights movement in the United States.
Kevin Kunster, 60, Copake Falls, Columbia County, said, “With the scientific information we now have at hand, to do nothing is to be guilty of indifference and perhaps complicity.”
Those arrested today were:
Mike Bucci, 67, Walton, Delaware County
Tricia Campbell, 72, Wolcott, Wayne County
Hannah Dickinson, 33, Geneva, Ontario County
Andrew Feron, 51, Cottekill, Ulster County
Martha Fischer, 58, Enfield, Tompkins County
Arthur Godin, 66, Enfield, Tompkins County
Ariel Gold, 40, Ithaca, Tompkins County
Ben Guthrie, 63, Interlaken, Seneca County
Larry Hirschberger, 60, Ithaca, Tompkins County
Kevin Kuenster, 60, Copake Falls, Columbia County
Steve Marcus, 60, Arkport, Steuben County
Janet McCue, 65, Hector, Schuyler County
Victoria Rasmussen, 43, Valois, Schuyler County
Dianne Roe, 72, Corning, Steuben County
Ryan Solomons, 23, New Paltz, Ulster County
Camille Tischler, 67, Ithaca, Tompkins County
Reverend Jane Winters, 62, Elmira, Chemung County
Read more about the protesters at: http://www.wearesenecalake.com/seneca-lake-defendes/.
Read more about widespread objections to Crestwood’s gas storage plans: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/26/nyregion/new-york-winemakers-fight-gas-storage-plan-near-seneca-lake.html?_r=0.
Read Gannett's investigative report about the risks and dangers of LPG gas storage: http://www.pressconnects.com/longform/news/local/watchdog/2015/06/26/seneca-gas-storage-debated/29272421/
Background on the protests:
Protesters have been blocking the Crestwood gas storage facility gates since Thursday, October 23rd, including a rally with more than 200 people on Friday, October 24th. On Wednesday, October 29, Crestwood called the police and the first 10 protesters were arrested. More information and pictures of the actions are available at www.WeAreSenecaLake.com.
The unified We Are Seneca Lake protests started on October 23rd because Friday, October 24th marked the day that major new construction on the gas storage facility was authorized to begin. The ongoing acts of civil disobedience come after the community pursued every possible avenue to stop the project and after being thwarted by an unacceptable process and denial of science. The protests are taking place at the gates of the Crestwood compressor station site on the shore of Seneca Lake, the largest of New York’s Finger Lakes.
The methane gas storage expansion project is advancing in the face of broad public opposition and unresolved questions about geological instabilities, fault lines, and possible salinization of the lake, which serves as a source of drinking water for 100,000 people. Crestwood has indicated that it intends to make Seneca Lake the gas storage and transportation hub for the northeast, as part of the gas industry’s planned expansion of infrastructure across the region.
*Note that the WE ARE SENECA LAKE protest is to stop the expansion of methane gas storage, a separate project from Crestwood’s proposed Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) storage project, which is on hold pending a Department of Environmental Conservation Issues Conference on February 12th.
As they have for a long time, the protesters are continuing to call on President Obama, U.S. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, Governor Cuomo, and Congressman Reed to intervene on behalf of the community and halt the dangerous project. In spite of overwhelming opposition, grave geological and public health concerns, Crestwood has federal approval to move forward with plans to store highly pressurized, explosive gas in abandoned salt caverns on the west side of Seneca Lake. While the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has temporarily halted plans to stockpile propane and butane (LPG) in nearby caverns—out of ongoing concerns for safety, health, and the environment—Crestwood is actively constructing infrastructure for the storage of two billion cubic feet of methane (natural gas), with the blessing of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
More background, including about the broad extent of the opposition from hundreds of wineries and more than a dozen local municipalities, is available on the We Are Seneca Lake website at http://www.wearesenecalake.com/press-kit/.