Misinformation about the project has generated confusion and concern. It is important that the local communities better understand the real benefits and risks of this shovel-ready project.
“The geology is highly questionable.”
• The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has repeatedly approved natural gas storage projects using US Salt caverns in the same salt formation; and
• Propane has been stored safely in Schuyler County for more than 50 years.
Salt caverns are ideal for hydrocarbon storage and have been used for decades all around the world to store propane and natural gas. A 2004 report from the FERC states that the “walls of a salt cavern also have the structural strength of steel.”
Propane and natural gas have each been stored safely in US Salt’s caverns for about 20 years. Propane has also been stored without incident in salt caverns in nearby Steuben and Cortland Counties since the 1950's.
The New York State Geologist endorsed the LPG storage project, citing the salt formation's “longstanding operational record as a gas storage facility without any geologic evidence of incompatibility for this intended purpose.” The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also approved the site plan.
The FERC has on three separate occasions (1997, 2002, 2014) reviewed the geology and approved using caverns at US Salt for natural gas storage. In May 2014, the FERC (working the DEC) authorized an expansion of the existing gas storage facility, rejecting or rebuffing virtually all arguments challenging the suitability of the US Salt caverns for storage service.
Crestwood, a publicly-traded company on the New York Stock Exchange, has developed multiple storage facilities in New York. Crestwood does not pursue the development of unsafe storage projects.
“The project will ruin the water quality of Seneca Lake.”
• The storage project will not hurt water quality because the caverns do not leak; and
• Salt caverns have the structural strength of steel; and
• Salt deposits are impermeable and self-healing.
Propane and natural gas have each been stored safely in US Salt caverns for about 20 years and in nearby counties since the Fifties without incident. At the same time, the tremendous growth of the wine and tourism industry have brought millions more people to the Finger Lakes without impacting the water quality of Seneca Lake.
Salt caverns are ideal for hydrocarbon storage and have been used for decades all around the country to store propane and natural gas. A 2004 report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (FERC) states that the “walls of a salt cavern also have the structural strength of steel.” The self-sealing nature of the salt formation and the several hundred meters of rock above the caverns ensures that product will not leak into the lake.
The depth and structural integrity of the caverns (approximately 2,040’ to 2,830’ below ground) isolates all the propane from ground and drinking water and the surface, which is consistent with the fact that brine is stored in the US Salt caverns today without leaking. The low porosity and low permeability of salt prevents the migration of brine or LPG, and the caverns have passed both hydrogen and nitrogen testing that satisfies international mechanical integrity requirements. Thus, it is virtually impossible for propane stored underground to leak.
The above ground brine ponds are likewise very safe. These ponds have been designed to exceed DEC Dam Safety and US Army Corps of Engineer standards. The numerous safety and environmental protective features include a double liner with leak detection system and monitoring; an engineered embankment to prevent a breach of the pond; daily brine level monitoring; and, sufficient freeboard to account for wind and precipitation, including a backup connection to the US Salt plant, among others. US Salt is also in the process of replacing its older brine lines, further reducing the risk of brine leaks or spills. Crestwood is taking all precautions – and then some – to prevent any failure of the brine ponds.
“Industrialization will ruin the wine and tourism industries in the area.”
• Propane storage facilities have been operating safely in the Finger Lakes for decades; and
• During that same time wine and tourism industries have flourished; and
• The facility will not be visible from on or across Seneca Lake.
Propane has been transported and stored in the Finger Lakes for more the five decades – a time when the local wine and tourism industries experienced phenomenal growth. Propane has been stored in Steuben County since 1953 and Cortland County since the 1950s. US Salt stored more than 3 million gallons of propane for more than 20 years (1964-1984). That’s more than 30 percent more propane than the proposed Finger Lakes LPG storage facility would hold.
Propane is used in thousands of homes and hundreds of businesses across New York. This includes the hotels, motels, lodges and bed and breakfasts around the Finger Lakes that attract tourists. Propane cannons and crop drying fans also play an essential role in keeping the birds and frost off the local award-winning grape vines.
The peak season for propane related activity is the winter, when it is being used most. In contrast, the peak tourism season is the summer and early fall months. Propane trucks will not be an issue. Plus, visitors enjoying the water or the vineyards across Seneca Lake will not even know the project exists. The propane is stored more than 2,000 feet underground; the infrastructure visible above ground is minimal. Crestwood commissioned a visual impact study, which included a line of site analysis to confirm the project (including surface facilities and brine ponds) will not be visible from Seneca Lake or from across the lake.
Crestwood is proud of the part its subsidiary, the century old US Salt, and its employees have played in the Finger Lakes’ economic growth. The Finger Lakes LPG Storage facility will be a boost to the economy of the region, diversifying Schuyler County’s tax base as it helps to stabilize and lower propane costs for New Yorkers.
“Propane storage is not compatible with the businesses in the region”
• Propane and natural gas storage already exists in the Finger Lakes; and
• US Salt has been in operation for over a century; and
• Many existing businesses nearby are directly compatible with propane storage.
Propane storage already exists in the Finger Lakes and has been in the Finger Lakes for more than 50 years. US Salt has been in operation for over a century right on the southwest shores of Seneca Lake. The propane storage facility up the road from the US Salt plant has been in operation for more than 30 years as well. US Salt’s presence is well known, to say the least.
Propane has also been stored in salt caverns in nearby Steuben and Cortland Counties since the 1950's.
TEPPCO’s propane storage terminal, which has operated safely for more than 30 years, is located just down Route 14. A truck repair shop, an inactive solid waste transfer station, and a highway garage are located close to where the proposed surface facilities will be located. A number of other industrial activities (e.g., railroad and pipeline operations) traverse the US Salt property and local communities, and another salt production company (Cargill) and metal fabrication company (BMS Manufacturing) are major local employers.
“The facility will ruin the views from and across Seneca Lake.”
• A visual impact study found that the facility will not be visible from or across Seneca Lake.
The view from or from across the lake will not be impacted. Neighbors and visitors will not see be able to see the facility. A visual impact study performed by Crestwood, as required by the DEC, confirmed that surface facilities and brine ponds will not be visible from Seneca Lake or from across the lake.
Although the pond embankments may potentially be visible, they will be seeded with native grasses and look like rolling hills along the existing countryside.
“The project will increase truck traffic significantly.”
• The vast majority of propane will be transported via the existing pipeline;
• Peak propane season (winter) and peak tourism season (summer) do not overlap; and
• Truck traffic will be minimal.
In 2011, Crestwood obtained a supplemental traffic study that reflected the company’s then-current expectations around how LPG would move in and out of the facility. Assuming a maximum of 20-21 trucks a day would be loaded during the peak winter heating months, that amounts to fewer than a truck an hour – only during the peak winter season. New York’s Department of Transportation reviewed the traffic study and concluded: “the traffic impacts associated with the proposed action do not represent a substantial increase to the existing traffic volumes.”
The propane market has changed considerably since 2011, to the point where Crestwood today expects to move all propane volumes by pipeline (i.e., no propane will be received or delivered by truck). In fact, Crestwood’s storage project could help to reduce local truck traffic during the winter months. Propane dealers serving eastern New York routinely send trucks west in search of propane supplies if they cannot obtain enough propane from the Selkirk facility to serve their customers. Because Crestwood can send propane to the Selkirk terminal (via Enterprise’s existing pipeline), Crestwood’s project can increase the propane supplies available at Selkirk and help reduce the need for dealers to send trucks west in search of propane supplies.
“Increased train traffic across the Watkins Glen Gorge Bridge poses an unacceptable risk.”
• The bridge currently handles the weight of these trains;
• The bridge is regularly inspected and maintained; and
• Norfolk Southern, a proven operator with an outstanding safety record abides by very strict weight and speed restrictions.
The Watkins Glen Gorge Bridge can handle the increased train traffic and rail remains an incredibly safe way to transport propane.
The track spanning part of the Watkins Glen State Park is inspected at least twice a week, and the bridge structure is inspected at least annually. The 303 feet of track have very strict weight and speed restrictions, and secondary guardrails and tracks have been installed to make the bridge even more safe and secure. The bridge does not have any freight restrictions, and the allowable weight of a loaded propane-carrying rail car (286,000 pounds gross weight) is well within the load carrying capacity of the bridge.
Norfolk Southern is a proven rail operator with an outstanding safety record. According to the Association of American Railroads, 99.998% of all hazardous material rail shipments reach their destination without a release caused by a train accident. Norfolk Southern transported more than half a million carloads of hazardous materials last year, while experiencing less than a 0.002% accidental release rate. None of these releases involved propane or occurred within New York.
“Crestwood is an out-of-town company that doesn't belong in New York.”
• US Salt, owned today by Crestwood, has been a pillar of the Watkins Glen community for over a century;
• Crestwood has a significant investment in New York's communities and economy; and
• Crestwood has operations in six counties in New York.
Many of the most recognizable New York companies are actually headquartered in other states. That does not mean that the parent company isn’t deeply invested in New York.
Crestwood owns US Salt, which has been a pillar in the Watkins Glen community since the 1890s, and the natural gas storage facility developed at the US Salt complex in the 1990s. Crestwood also owns a propane storage facility in Bath, New York that has been operating since the early 1950s, as well as natural gas storage facilities and pipelines systems in five other counties: Broome, Chemung, Steuben, Tioga, and Tompkins.
Crestwood has created hundreds of construction and permanent jobs in New York through the development, construction, operation, and expansion of natural gas storage and pipeline systems in Steuben and Tioga Counties.
Crestwood, which employs more than 180 people in New York, has invested more than $850 million in New York State (including more than $165 million in US Salt alone). Crestwood is the largest private employer in Schuyler County, and is the largest taxpayer in Schuyler and Tioga Counties. In the past two years (2012-2013) Crestwood has paid New York vendors almost $190 million and paid more than $7.3 million in real property taxes statewide.
“Crestwood is a bad neighbor because it has sued to pay lower taxes”
• Crestwood is the single largest taxpayer in both Schuyler and Tioga Counties;
• Crestwood has paid more than $7.3 million in real property taxes in New York State in calendar years 2012 and 2013.
No company or individual likes to pay taxes. Like many homeowners in New York State and across the United States, Crestwood challenged past property tax assessments. This is no different than a homeowner who bought a house for $100,000 and finds it has been assessed at $200,000. That homeowner would likely challenge the city or state to reassess the property to more closely match the purchase price. This is what Crestwood did – it just wanted to ensure it was paying the proper amount of tax. No more and no less. In this way, Crestwood is no different than any other business owner or resident.
“The Finger Lakes LPG Storage facility will turn the Finger Lakes into a regional propane storage hub”
Crestwood has never suggested it will develop Schuyler County into a “regional hub.” Noting that the propane and natural gas markets rely on completely separate infrastructure to move supply to market, the notion that either the proposed LPG storage facility or Crestwood’s natural gas storage operations could be developed into a “hub” is based on a statement taken out of context. Crestwood’s integrated natural gas storage and transportation operations in New York, which are anchored in Tioga County and have multiple pipeline connections providing significant commodity liquidity, effectively act as a “hub” for the Northeast natural gas demand market. In purchasing US Salt (2008) and the Seneca Lake natural gas storage facility (2011), Crestwood explained to its investors that these bolt-on natural gas acquisitions added interconnectivity and scale to Crestwood’s existing natural gas hub operations in the Northeast. The fact is, regardless of whether we are talking about propane or natural gas, a lack of local infrastructure and customer demand makes it almost impossible to envision a scenario where Crestwood’s assets in Schuyler County can be developed into hub.