Ten people are here tonight to face charges resulting from an act of non-violent civil disobedience in the form of a blockade at the gates of Crestwood Midstream, which seeks to bury, in abandoned salt caverns on the west bank of Seneca Lake, billions of cubic feet of natural gas and so turn our peaceful Finger Lakes region, and the heart of New York’s wine country, into a gas station for fracking.
Sweeping aside substantive objections from the public and from independent scientists about possible geological instabilities in these old, interbedded salt caverns and dismissing concerns that pressurizing these caverns could force brine into the lake and explosive methane gas into unseen cracks and fissures of our shale bedrock, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved Crestwood’s Arlington Expansion Project on Oct. 24.
On the same day, a grassroots civil disobedience campaign called We Are Seneca Lake was born at the gates of this facility. The ten people arrested soon after represent the first cohort of Seneca Lake Defenders to appear tonight in this court.
I am one of them.
There will be many more.
As for our reasons for taking these measures—and civil disobedience is always a last recourse after all lawful avenues for redress of injustice have been exhausted—you will hear them from three of my fellow co-defendants.
As for me, there are many ways to describe my own journey to this place, but tonight I will allow Crestwood itself to explain my actions.
Here is an excerpt from Crestwood’s 10-K Report, which companies are required to file with the Securities and Exchange Commission in order to disclose risks. In a section subtitled “Assets,” the company describes “Seneca Lake, a multi-cycle, bedded salt storage facility in Schuyler County, New York. . . .Its 19-mile, 16-inch diameter pipeline lateral connects the storage facility to Millennium and Dominion’s system.”
Crestwood then goes on to boast: “The interconnectivity of our storage facilities with interstate pipelines offers flexibility to shippers in the Northeast, and our facilities are located in close proximity to the Northeast demand market and a prolific supply source, the Marcellus shale.”
The Section titled “Risk Factors” on pages 23 and 24, Crestwood says the following:
Our business involves many hazards and risks, some of which may not be fully covered by insurance.
Our operations are subject to all of the risks and hazards inherent in the natural gas and NGL
storage and transportation businesses, including:
- subsidence of the geological structures where we store natural gas and NGLs;
- risks and hazards inherent in drilling operations associated with the development of new caverns;
- problems maintaining the wellbores and related equipment and facilities that form a part of the infrastructure that is critical to the operation of our storage facilities;
- damage to our facilities and properties caused by hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, fires and other natural disasters, acts of terrorism, third parties, equipment or material failures, pipeline or vessel ruptures or corrosion, explosions and other incidents;
- leaks, migrations or losses of natural gas and NGLs;
- collapse of storage caverns;
- operator error;
- environmental pollution or other environmental issues, including drinking water contamination associated with our raw water or water disposal wells; and
- other industry hazards that could result in the suspension of operations.
These risks could result in substantial losses due to breaches of contractual commitments, personal injury and/or loss of life, damage to and destruction of property and equipment and pollution or other environmental damage. These risks may also result in curtailment or suspension of our operations. A natural disaster or other hazard affecting the areas in which we operate could have a material adverse effect on our operations. We are not fully insured against all risks inherent in our business. In addition, we are not insured against all environmental accidents that might occur, some of which may result in toxic tort claims.
Thank you, Crestwood, for that articulate description of why I am here.
As for what happens next, know this. None of us are fearless and none of us are particularly brave. It’s just that we are more scared of “storage cavern collapse” than we are handcuffs circling our wrists. We are more terrified by “leaks, migrations or losses of natural gas,” than we are a ride in a squad car. We are more alarmed by “environmental pollution, including drinking water contamination” than we are breakfast in jail.
We Are Seneca Lake is local, grassroots human rights movement. We look to Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and our own homegrown Seneca Falls women’s suffrage movement as our models. We are low on patience, but we are filled with resolve. What we know for sure is this: our love for Seneca Lake, which turns water into wine, and our love for our own children—whose blood plasma is Seneca Lake itself—greatly exceed the love that Crestwood investors feel for their profits. Which is why we will win. I am proud to be among the first wave of Seneca Lake Defenders. We are just getting started.
Dr. Steingraber at 1:48