Soccer’s World Cup final is coming up today, but on Thursday, the Finger Lakes region claimed a victory that means more to our area and our way of life than anything France or Croatia can stir up on a soccer pitch in Russia. Besides, that game will last 90 minutes or so; the FL’s battle took 10 years.
State DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos delivered the telling blow Thursday, announcing that the Department of Environmental Conservation would be denying a permit for Finger Lakes LPG Storage — known better on your scorecard as Crestwood Midstream — to move forward with its proposed plan to store 88.2 million gallons of liquefied petroleum gas in abandoned salt caverns alongside Seneca Lake.
Score it 1-0 in favor of the Finger Lakes and its agritourism-based economy against the giant, big-moneyed, Texas-based energy corporation.
As Yvonne Taylor, vice president of Gas Free Seneca — one of a number of all-volunteer, grassroots organizations and coalitions that sprang to life to oppose the ill-conceived project — said: “Don’t ever let anyone tell you that David can’t beat Goliath.”
In his 29-page decision detailing the reasons for the denial, Seggos touched on the attributes that make this area special and that unequivocally need to be protected — namely the character of the region, the environmental setting and sensitivity of the Finger Lakes and the local and regional economic engines of wine, agriculture and tourism.
“The significant adverse impacts on community character are not outweighed or balanced by social, economic or other considerations and cannot be minimized to the maximum extent practicable,” Seggos wrote of the Crestwood plan.
Don’t get us wrong, we’re not against development. However, we believe strongly in responsible development that not only benefits the area’s economy and its workforce but also falls in line with the essence of the Finger Lakes, the pristine lakes, the rolling hills and farmland, the farm-to-table movement, the wineries, distilleries and craft breweries that are popping up like wildfire.
Crestwood’s plan did not fit that idyllic, iconic FL vision.
It would have created only a handful of jobs — while putting tens of thousands of tourism and agricultural jobs at risk. It wouldn’t even have provided much more propane gas for area consumers. And most importantly it called for using old, abandoned salt caverns that many deem not suitable for that purpose. The plan was impractical and shortsighted at best and dangerous at worst.
It also was opposed by not only Gov. Cuomo but by over 450 Seneca Lake property owners, over 500 local and regional businesses, including several local wineries and craft beverage facilities, and 32 municipalities representing 1.2 million Finger Lakes residents.
Appropriately, the ruling was made as hundreds of volunteers and thousands of athletes prepared for one of the events that celebrates all of those good things about the Finger Lakes: this weekend’s 15th annual Musselman Triathlon in Geneva.
Will Ouweleen, local vintner and co-founder of Finger Lakes Wine Business Coalition, celebrated the decision by saying that it would protect and preserve “our legacy businesses” and ensure that the Finger Lakes way of life can be passed on “from generation to generation.”
“With over 20 percent of Finger Lakes wineries running on solar power, renewable energy is the future to energy independence for the great state of New York,” he said. “We are not the gas and garbage dump for America.”
“This is truly a great day for our region,” Taylor continued. “We raise a glass of Finger Lakes bubbly to all who have worked so hard in our region.”
We join in that toast.
And now, with that hurdle cleared, let’s see what France and Croatia can muster.