A two-court tango for anti-salt cavern propane storage activist

SCHUYLER COUNTY, New York - Local anti-hydrofracking, anti-propane storage activist Jeremy Alderson of Hector, NY had double court dates Wednesday June 18, the first in the Town of Reading, the second in the Town of Dix.

Reading is where a Houston, Texas-based gas company wants to put in an 88-million gallon propane storage facility, using old salt caverns. It also is using the project as Phase One of a massive industrial complex to serve the propane and natural gas needs of the entire northeastern United States. Gas from hydrofracked gas wells in Pennsylvania is also likely to find its way into the proposed facility before being shipped to export terminals for overseas sales.

Alderson has been arrested twice for protesting at the gates of the Town of Reading Crestwood facility.

Here's a video of the first arrest Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012:

In the Town of Reading trial, and again last night in the Town of Dix, he was unsuccessful in getting the judges to let him use what's called a justification defense. That defense is based on the accused's  belief that there is a clear and present danger.

Both judges disallowed the defense, saying it had nothing to do with his trespassing on property owned by the Crestwood Corporation. Crestwood bought the property, along with U.S. Salt and a development plan from the Inergy Corporation of Missouri. Alderson has argued - unsuccessfully - that it has everything to do with not only his defense, but having the community understand what it will be like if the project is approved.

In addition to additional truck traffic and likely water and air pollution, no safety plan has been draw in the eventuality of any major explosions, fires or spills at the company site.

Here's what Alderson had to say outside of court Wednesday:

And here is a video of Alderson's second arrest, June 28, 2013:

Ten days ago the Schuyler County Legislature narrowly passed a resolution in favor of the project, but only over the objections of nearly 300 local residents who came to a meeting to protest. Representatives of Crestwood and U.S. Salt attended. The pro-project attendees (most of whom worked directly for Crestwood) were provided with company t-shirts if they agreed to speak in favor of the project. Local opponents said only a handful of the 48 people in T-shirts were actually local residents. The rest were bussed in and/or came from out of state.

A request to Crestwood to confirm - or deny - that it provided t-shirts, lodging at the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel, and food for a cadre of out-of-town, paid supporters was answered by this email from Debbie Hagen, a Crestwood spokesperson:

"We encouraged project supporters to attend Monday’s meeting 
but we have no way of knowing how many supporters 
attended on their own.  
That said, we are grateful for those who attended 
and showed support for the project."

Here's a video of the  Schuyler County Legislature meeting:

In the second court hearing, the judge was briskly efficient, rendering a guilty verdict on the trespassing charge in just under two hours. Repeated objections from defense counsel Jerry Kinchey of Sayre, PA were generally brushed aside quickly. The same thing happened with the contention by Alderson that the entire question of trespassing and property lines has never been established.

The district attorney and Crestwood have never produced legal documents showing property demarcations at either of his trials.

Alderson will go back into the Town of Reading court sometime later this summer. The Town of Dix court however will see Alderson July 9 for sentencing.

In the meantime, local activists opposed to the project are burning up social media with various conversations about issues related to Crestwood's project, other propane and gas-related issues nationally and internationally and continuing a simmering resentment over the Schuyler County Legislature's 5-3 vote to support the project.

The five members of the legislature who voted in favor of the Houston, Texas company's plan even found themselves featured on a wanted poster. From left to right, Stewart Field, Phil Barnes, Dennis Fagan (chair of the legislature) Van Harp and Thomas Gifford.

Barnes is up for re-election in November and will likely run unopposed.


A big week for 'The Fracking War' - and it's only Monday

WATKINS GLEN, New York - Just a few days after Adm. Fox and I returned to our upstate NY zip code, our son Dustin Fox put the finishing touches on an author website for me - something that looks more professional than my hacking on websites like these.

He and his friend (professional web designer Kimberly Paternoster) did a very nice job. And they promise there can be more neat things to come. LINK: Michael J. Fitzgerald, Author.

The feature that took a little extra care was an order form so that people could request a book directly from me, avoiding the Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble online stores.

We added it so anyone who wanted to get an inscribed copy of the book can do so. And they can also have it sent directly to someone as a gift, too. (LINK: The Fracking War, inscribed)

More big news came in an hour ago from Sylvia. She arranged it so that Saturday afternoon I will join with other local author types at the Barnes & Noble store in Ithaca, NY to give a brief presentation about my novel and do an honest-to-God bookstore book-signing.

I signed about 25 books at an anti-fracking rally in Sacramento, Calif. then more in Flagstaff at an informal Sunday afternoon gathering at Beth and Mel Tucker's mansion.

But this is a bookstore! And believe me, bookstores are getting quite rare. I know because I'm contacting them to see if they want to carry The Fracking War.

And then there is the Finger Lakes Times, the newspaper for which I write a weekly column titled Write On. (LINK: Write On, Finger Lakes Times)

Executive Editor Mike Cutillo told me today that the newspaper is planning on publishing a story about the book coming out in print, wants to do a video interview with me for the newspaper's website - and also will proudly display The Fracking War on sale in the newspaper's lobby.

Sounds like the war is on!


The Fracking War is out in print - and some life updates

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - Since sometime in December, my brain has been totally focused on getting The Fracking War novel out the door.

Thus, no blogs. None, nada, zip, zilch, zero...

But now the book has gone out the door, and is back in, this time as a published paperback novel, with its own Library of Congress designation and everything. Imagine, a book with my name on it in the Library of Congress.

Of course, my name is likely already all over all kinds of NSA documents but that's another issue.

Admiral Fox and I returned from Mexico just a few days ago where we had our usual adventurous moments both in Nuevo Vallarta and Arroyo Seco.

This season, however, for the first time in at least four or five years, I caught a cold. Not just a booger-filled, sneezing, I feel-like-crap cold. No, this was a headbanger with a fever, enough deep-lung coughing for a roomful of cigarette smokers and such low energy I could barely walk up and down the stairs of our condo at Bahia del Sol.

It only lasted about a month, though.

A month. Kee-rist!

All that is just so much water in the sand though as Adm. Fox and I get ready to catch 400 copies of The Fracking War this week, coming via UPS. More than 100 books are destined to be mailed to Kickstar.com supporters. Some will be sold at a March 15 anti-fracking demonstration at the state capitol here. Others will go to various potential reviewers locally.

And on our driving trip back to the east coast, we will be stopping in towns to chat with newspaper editors and radio stations to see if they have any interest in the book.

The book popped up for sale on Amazon.com Sunday night, 48 hours after I gave the nod for Mill City Press of Minneapolis to fire up the machine and start cranking out copies of The Fracking War. Barnes & Noble shows the book for sale now, too.

Can a call from The Daily Show be far behind?

In the meantime, we continue watch the weather in Northeast carefully, comparing it to our Sacramento experiences. Seems like heading east too early means a repeat of some of the foul weather we traveled in getting west in December.

Admiral Fox does have her snow boots with her, but says if she has to don them, there will be trouble.

I believe her.


Sun is up, waiting for the highway to clear...

FAIRFIELD INN, Tehachapi, California - One of the benefits of being stuck here in Tehachapi has been that I finally can spell the name of this small burg.
Tehachapi in summer, much nicer

Others are that the highway is still closed which means we are sitting in a cozy hotel, breakfast is just being served and we didn't sit alongside the road all night in a snowdrift.

Or worse.

Adm. Fox and I will head out when Highway 58 opens and make our way down the mountain, then north to San Francisco and Sacramento where it has been cold, but the likelihood of 100 mph wind gusts and black ice is considerably less.



Black ice, tractor-trailers and a guardian angel helps out

FAIRFIELD INN, Tehachapi, California - Admiral Sylvia Fox and I were breezing along in our Prius on California Highway 58, crossing through the Tehachapi Mountains on our way from Flagstaff to San Francisco, when we ran into a weather phenomenon I haven't seen in years.

A snow whiteout.

10 minutes before the whiteout
We were driving about 15 miles per hour and within a few miles of the summit in blowing snow when suddenly the tractor trailer 100 feet in front of us disappeared in the snowstorm.


And when I glanced in my rear-view mirror, the tractor trailer who was tailgating us disappeared also.

We will get back to that tailgating in a minute.

In maybe 15-20 seconds, the visibility cleared slightly, then lifted more, revealing a freeway littered with cars that had probably slammed on their brakes when the visibility went to zero.

And they were on black ice.

I am sure about that black ice because as soon as I saw the cars in the ditch, cars off the side of the road, cars in the median and lots of people with totally stunned looks on their faces, I gently tapped my brakes to avoid colliding with the semi in front which was shuddering to a stop.

We did a really neat skid, but stayed straight. And I thanked all those years of skidding and sliding in upstate New York growing up.

Then I looked in the rear view mirror and saw that the semi behind me - the one tailgating, remember? - had gone into a locked-wheel skid and his trailer was starting to pass him, very slowly, but definitely swinging around.

I don't think I would have been more terrified to see a platoon of zombies from World War Z closing in.

I didn't mention this little problem to Adm. Fox who was marveling at all the people in their cars and commenting on how fast some people were still driving.

But the guardian angel who travels with me most days decided to goose the semi in front of us just enough forward  so I could give our Prius gas to keep the semi behind from turning us into a Prius pancake.

It was close, but we proceeded on the black ice, making between 5-10 mph between skids.

We got off at the Tehachapi exit just as the California Highway Patrol was closing the highway's west bound land, a sure sign that things were unraveling. Within a half-hour they closed highway completely.

And as I write this, we are ensconced in a comfortable suite at the Fairfield Inn with quite a few other pilgrims who decided that with the sun going down and snow blowing hard a warm bed and cold wine was good alternative to black ice and cars in the ditch.
Pool at the Fairfield Inn

Oh! And this Fairfield Inn has a nice Jacuzzi and swimming pool which we have already tested out.

And the wine is chilling in the ice bucket.


Snowstorm slows progress towards California...

SANTA FE, New Mexico - Admiral Fox and I spent a great afternoon and evening in Santa Fe, New Mexico capped by an excellent dinner at a restaurant called The Shed with amigos Randy and Karin, California transplants who own a fabulous casa near a Santa Fe college.

We are getting to know their casa well as we wait out a raging snowstorm that has snarled traffic on the interstate highways.

Just like upstate New York

Today we expected to arrive in Flagstaff, Arizona this afternoon.

But given that it is snowing horizontally and the snow is supposed to continue into the night, Randy and Karin have put out the welcome mat.

Santa Fe is a very interesting town with museums, artists, and restaurants of all shapes and sizes. You could drop a lot of money here - pretty fast - on some beautiful handmade items.

Seeing the city covered in a mantle of snow is apparently a rare thing. We hope that mantle lifts by morning


From Whole Foods to Whole Foods across the USA

TULSA, Oklahoma - Admiral Fox and I seem to be traveling on this trip from Whole Foods to Whole Foods, Trader Joes to Trader Joes.

It's pretty healthy, except for the wine.

But we continue our quest west in a few moments, landing tonight in Amarillo, Texas before soldiering on Wednesday to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

There is a hellacious snowstorm ahead of us, which we think we will use age and treachery to outwit.

If not, well, we will try to get stuck in a hotel near a Whole Foods and across the street from a Trader Joes.

More from Amarillo tonight, depending on what time cocktail hour starts.


Heading for Sullivan, Missouri; gasoline costs $2.98 a gallon

ON I44 West of St. Louis - Adm. Fox and are are 974 miles from Santa Fe, New Mexico, our first stop (well, stop with friends) on our sojourn from Watkins Glen to California.

We rolled out early this morning, discovered that the complimentary breakfast at our Best Western was unlikely to be complementary to our digestive systems and so left immediately to cross Ohio, Illinois and now Missouri.

The sun is out here at 5:30 p.m., temperature a balmy 60 degrees.

Yup, northeast amigos, that was not a typo - 60 degrees.

For mileage afficionados, the Prius is getting more than 50 mpg and seems to like going 75 mph, particularly if there are no state troopers nearby.

We are looking forward to touching down somewhere east of Springfield, Missouri in an hour or two. We bought a few bottles of wine at Trader Joe's today so we can save  all the NY wines we brought to share with California amigos.


Somewhere north of Columbus, Ohio...

NEAR COLUMBUS, OHIO - Admiral Sylvia Fox and I sat in a barely moving traffic jam - on and off - for about two hours tonight before packing it in and grabbing a room at a Best Western Inn.

It was not what we thought our first night on the road to California would bring. But then we didn't leave until noon and even ran into some snow near Jamestown (of course, it's Jamestown).

But we are all fed, wined and ready to get up early to pile on some miles on our quest to get to Santa Fe, New Mexico by late Wednesday, Flagstaff, Arizona Thursday and then on to Sacramento, Sunday.

At least that is the plan. Right now.

The Prius has been getting about 50 mpg so far - and gas prices in Ohio are $3 per gallon. Yup, $3 per gallon.

Wine's cheap, too, but that's another story.

On the road to California - and Mexico

ERIE, Penn. - Admiral Sylvia Fox and I are tooling along at 70 mph outside Erie on our way west and south.

We left Watkins Glen at about noon after several stops and starts.

The biggest stop-and-turn-around was when we crested a hill and could see a beautiful lake. I remembered I had left my camera on my desk.

But a quick run back home solved that.

More later as we move down into Ohio and I can do this on my laptop, not this iPad...