WATKINS GLEN, New York, USA - A few weeks ago I wrote the following in my column for the Finger Lakes Times in Geneva:
The winds of war are blowing and hard to ignore this summer.
I’m not talking about the national political chatter about Iran and that nation’s potential to produce nuclear weapons.
The breezes on the back of my neck come from much closer to home from two seemingly related decisions: a pending state decision whether to allow hydrofracking for natural gas and the possible approval of a massive propane and natural gas storage project in the Town of Reading, a few miles north of Watkins Glen.
This Friday those winds will be blowing hard, right along the main boulevards of Watkins Glen, NY, with a very large demonstration and march against the proposed Inergy propane storage facility in the Town of Reading.
Protestors will assemble at 4 p.m. near the waterfront and from there, well, it's anybody's guess what will happen.
Many people have worked hard for several years to convince local officials to stop this disaster-in-the-making from moving forward. For the most part, government officials seem unimpressed and dismiss the opponents as some kind of environmental whack jobs.
Thousands of people have signed petitions against it and have the support of hundreds of local businesses - large and small - which are threatened with a loss of commerce if this large-scale industrial project gets the nod.
The planned project is an environmental nightmare of epic proportions. And the proponents have demonstrated they have little regard for the safety and well-being of the area and its residents.
Just in the last few months, without permits, the company has spilled many gallons of brine water - water that is much, much saltier than sea water - right into Seneca Lake. The scars of burnt grass and dying trees are visible to the naked eye from the lake.
Inergy officials merely yawn.
|Part of the Inergy site|
Beyond that, there is no safety plan in case of a major emergency. And even at that, Inergy has admitted in filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that if there is a major accident/incident, it couldn't afford to clean things up and pay for all the likely claims.
And if that all isn't bad enough, on the same day that demonstrators will be demanding that the Missouri-based company withdraw its application, the company will be arguing before the state Supreme Court to get its property taxes cut in half.
Cut in half! Jaysus!
No wonder people are taking to the streets.
The winds of war will blow Friday and it remains to be seen if local government officials will wake up and see just how alarmed the local citizenry is - really alarmed - and how much the citizens want the project stopped.
Among the many scenarios protestors are worried about - with some of the millions of gallons of propane being stored in unstable salt caverns beneath the lake for Godsakes - is that a major fire and explosion is likely.
No possible. Likely.
The video below from Toronto, Canada shows just how powerful a propane explosion is.
If Inergy's salt caverns - or planned above ground storage - caught fire and started to explode.
Well, adios Watkins Glen - and the surrounding countryside.