WATKINS GLEN — The Army Corps of Engineers is now involved in the environmental review of a plan to store liquefied petroleum gas, or LPG, in salt caverns on the west shore of Seneca Lake in the Schuyler County town of Reading.
Region 8 state Department of Environmental Conservation permit administrator David Bimber said officials from Inergy Midstream LLC of Kansas City, Mo., are talking with Corps of Engineers officials about federally regulated wetlands located on the project site.
“They are talking about an alternative siting plan to reduce the impacts on those wetlands,” Bimber said. “There are no state wetlands on the site, which is why that hasn’t come up as an issue for us.”
While those talks take place, Bimber said, many comments were submitted in response to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement prepared by Inergy Midstream and its project engineers. Roughly 80 people spoke at two public hearings in Watkins Glen, and there have been many more written and electronic comments, Bimber said.
“Inergy is responding to those comments, and DEC staff is continuing its review of the DEIS and the issues raised by the comments,” Bimber said. “There may be more questions we’d like Inergy to address in the DEIS. If there is a major rewrite of the DEIS, we would open it back up to public comment again.”
Bimber said the goal is to draft a final Environmental Impact Statement and consideration of a permit for the project to proceed.
Inergy, through a subsidiary called Finger Lakes LPG Storage LLC, has applied for a DEC permit to construct and operate a new underground LPG storage facility in existing caverns created for salt production. The proposed site consists of 576 acres on Routes 14 and 14A west of the lake and north of Watkins Glen.
The proposal calls for storing a maximum of 2.1 million barrels, or 88.2 million gallons, of LPG, both propane and butane, in the caverns seasonally, displacing the brine currently in the caverns. The LPG propane would be withdrawn and displaced by brine when demand increases during the heating season and by displacement of brine by butane during the gasoline-blending season.
During storage, the brine displaced by the LPG will be stored and contained in a 14-acre,
double-lined surface pond with a capacity of 2.19 million barrels, or 91.9 million gallons. The storage facility would connect to the existing LPG interstate pipeline that runs nearby. The LPG would be shipped in and out by truck and railroad.
The project also involves construction of a new railroad and truck LPG hub facility, consisting of a six-rail siding capable of loading and unloading of 24 rail cars within 12 hours and a truck-loading station capable of handling four trucks per hour, operating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Construction would also include LPG storage tanks, offices, distribution facilities and storm-water control structures.
Meanwhile, Gas Free Seneca, an organization that is fighting the LPG project, announced Thursday it received a $5,000 donation from supporter Sandra Steingraber of Trumansburg.
In November, Steingraber won a Heinz Award, consisting of a medal and $100,000. In a letter to Gas Free Seneca officials, she said she was going to use much of her award to fight hydrofracking in the Finger Lakes.
She said she was supporting Gas Free Seneca because of her 10-year-old son, Elijah.
“The plan to turn Seneca Lake into a transportation and storage hub for liquefied petroleum gas does more than just industrialize a place that is sacred to Elijah,” Steingraber wrote. “It represents a demonstrable threat to his health and to the health of all children who live downwind. Even absent a catastrophic accident, diesel fumes and smog will degrade air quality throughout the Finger Lakes region, raising the risk for asthma, cancer and pre-term birth.”
Steingraber said it’s clear to her the plan to transport and store LPG along the shore of the lake “are part of a larger scheme to turn upstate New York into a staging ground for extreme fossil fuels extraction and processing.”