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Watkins Glen, NY – Just two weeks before Pope Francis’ visit to the United States, where he is widely expected to call for urgent action to protect the world’s environment, 28 people, led by local members of the Catholic Worker Movement, formed human chains shortly after sunrise this morning across both entrances of Crestwood Midstream on Route 14.
Joining the protest was famed peace activist Martha Hennessy—the granddaughter of Catholic Worker co-founder and candidate for sainthood, Dorothy Day.
Today’s blockaders held banners that said, “Pope Francis, We Hear You” and “We Are Seneca Lake Caring for Our Common Home.”
As in previous blockades this summer, the protesters carried with them a seven-foot-tall replica of Pope Francis’ recent encyclical letter on climate change, Laudato Si! On Care for Our Common Home, as they blocked trucks from entering or leaving.
Schuyler County deputies arrested the 28 shortly before 7:30 a.m. as they read from the Pontifical document. All but Hennessy were transported to the Schuyler County Sheriff’s department, charged with trespassing, and released. Hennessy was held briefly in custody, transported to the Town of Hector court where she was arraigned and released on bail at 11:00 a.m.
This blockade comes just three days after the Labor Day morning fire on Crestwood’s lakeshore property sent smoke billowing over the lake, alarming local residents, boaters, and tourists. The fire started in a generator that services Crestwood’s U.S. Salt plant.
The Catholic Worker Movement was founded by journalist Dorothy Day and social activist Peter Maurin in 1933. Its purpose is to “live in accordance with the justice and charity of Jesus Christ.”
Delivering a statement on behalf of the group, blockader Martha Hennessy, 60, of Manhattan, said, ”The Pope has put his finger right on what we need to do to change direction. As it says in Laudato Si!, whatever issue affects one of us affects us all. Seneca Lake is one body of water that we all now have concerns about. Catholic Workers was founded in 1933, another time of ecological catastrophe, including the Dust Bowl. My grandmother witnessed all of that. She fed striking and unemployed workers. She understood that we are all the body of Christ. We are all one of another. That’s what I learned from her.”
Mark Scibilia-Carver, 61, a Catholic Worker from the Town of Ulysses in Tompkins County, said, “Pope Francis has issued a powerful reminder to people of all faiths that the Earth is a shared inheritance. Water and climate are ours to safeguard, not plunder. Our peaceful act of civil disobedience today—at the gates of a fossil fuel company that threatens our children’s drinking water with explosive gases—says that we are listening. A Papal Encyclical is the second-highest teaching authority in the Catholic Church. The Pope understands well the threats posed to our common home by entities like Crestwood. Catholics, in particular, need to act on what the Pope has said and oppose these threats.”
The total number of arrests in the nine-month-old civil disobedience campaign now stands at 400.
The We Are Seneca Lake movement opposes Crestwood’s plans for methane and LPG storage in lakeside salt caverns and has been ongoing since October 2014.
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.
The 28 arrested today were:
Peggy Abbott, 64, Geneva, Ontario County
Shirley Barton, 67, Mecklenburg, Schuyler County
Richard Battaglia, 53, Richford, Tioga County
Robyn Bem, 64, Dryden, Tompkins County
Dan Burgevin, 68, Trumansburg, Tompkins County
Lyndsay Clark, 54, Springwater, Livingston County
Nancy J. Cook, 62, Painted Post, Steuben County
John Dennis, 65, Lansing, Tompkins
Josh Dolan, 38, Ithaca, Tompkins County
Tessa Sage Flores, 66, Ithaca, Tompkins County
Zan Gerrity, 64, Ithaca, Tompkins County
Lyn Gerry, 59, Watkins Glen, Schuyler County
Ira Goldstein, 65, Ithaca, Tompkins County
Martha Hennessy, 60, Manhattan, New York County
Gabrielle Illava, 26, Ithaca, Tompkins County
Margaret McCasland, 69, Lansing County
Barbara Pease, 69, Ithaca, Tompkins County
Mariah Plumlee, 36, Covert, Seneca County
Cynda Poley, 60, Elmira, Chemung County
Stephanie Redmond, 39, Enfield, Tompkins County
James Ricks, 65, Ithaca, Tompkins County
Todd Saddler, 50, Ithaca, Tompkins County
Laura Salamendra, 31, Geneva, Ontario County
Coby Schultz, 55, Springwater, Livingston County
Mark Scibilia-Carver, 62, Ulysses, Tompkins County
Barbara Smith, 61, Lodi, Seneca County
Ba Stopha, 70, Ithaca, Tompkins County
Ann Sullivan, 68, Ithaca, Tompkins 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.democratandchronicle.com/story/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 23, 2014, 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/.
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