Crestwood Midstream Partners, a Texas company, wants to store methane, propane and butane in salt caverns underneath upstate New York’s beautiful Seneca Lake.
The company wants to make Seneca Lake a hub for transportation and storage of natural gas products for the whole northeast United States.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has already approved the methane part of the plan. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation is considering whether to approve storage of propane and butane—aka liquified petroleum gas (LPG).
Ellen Cantarow, writing for TomDispatch, explains what’s wrong with this idea.
Crestwood’s plan would mean the full-scale industrialization of the lake’s shores near Watkins Glen, including a 14-acre open pit for holding brine (water supersaturated with salt) removed from the caverns upon the injection of the gas; a 60-foot flare stack (a gas combustion device); a six-track rail site capable of loading and unloading 24 rail cars every 12 hours, each bearing 30,000 gallons of LPG; and a truck depot where four to five semi-trailers would be unloaded every hour.
As many as 32 rail cars at a time would cross a 75-year-old trestle that spans one of the country’s natural wonders, the Watkins Glen gorge, its shale sides forming steep columns down which waterfalls cascade.
The plan is riddled with accidents waiting to happen. Brine seepage, for example, could at some point make the lake water non-potable. (From 1964 to 1984, when propane was stored in two of the caverns, the lake’s salinity shot up.)
That’s only the first of many potential problems including tanker truck and train accidents, explosions, the emission of toxic and carcinogenic organic compounds from compressor stations and other parts of the industrial complex, air pollution, and impacts on local bird species and animal life due to deforestation and pollution.
Salt caverns 1,000 feet or more underground have been used for gas storage since the middle of the last century and have a checkered history.
A January 2015 analysis of Crestwood’s plan, based on documents by both independent scientists and an industry geologist, found 20 serious or extremely serious incidents in American salt cavern storage facilities between 1972 and 2012.
Ten of these involved large fires and explosions; six, loss of life or serious injury; eight, the evacuation of from 30 to 2,000 residents; and 13, extremely serious or catastrophic property loss.
via Dirty Energy vs. Clean Power: The Past Battles the Future at Seneca Lake by Ellen Cantarow for TomDispatch (via Unz Review). An excellent article, well worth reading in its entirety.