January 22, 2015

Out in the cold at the Town of Reading Town Hall - again!

TOWN OF READING, Schuyler County, New York - The weather was the same (cold, snowing) the cast of characters slightly different when court convened in the Town of Reading Wednesday night for the 40 people scheduled to be arraigned on charges of trespassing.

They faced hearings for blocking the gates of Crestwood Midstream, the Houston-Texas company that has been pushing a project to store 88 million gallons of propane in salt caverns on the shore of Seneca Lake.

It barely needs mentioning this is a colossally bad idea that has people all around the Finger Lakes protesting. A regional rally is planned for Jan. 31 at 2 p.m. in Geneva.

Since October the group We Are Seneca Lake has been blocking traffic from entering or leaving the 576-acre facility - at least until Schuyler County Sheriff's Deputies show up and haul them off, citing them for trespassing. The deputies are feeling the pressure and have been exhibiting signs that their senses of humor are stretched pretty thin.

When the weather turned cold and snowy, so did the hearts of the members of the Town Board of Reading and the elected town supervisor who said the courtroom would remain open, but the balance of the spacious, taxpayer-funding building would be remain off limits.

Thus anyone who couldn't fit into the courtroom had to stand outside. I did my best to embarrass the town in a column last week in the Finger Lakes Times.

Wednesday Sandra Steingraber spoke again about the movement, the arrests, the obnoxiousness (and dangerous aspects) of the lockout and also gave a knot of shivering arrestees and their supporters some words of encouragement - and news that the ACLU was stepping in. Of course, given the mindset of the people running the Town of Reading, the ACLU carries very little weight.

The two county sheriff's deputies on court duty continued to enforce the town's new policy of keeping the public out in the cold. But it was pretty clear neither of the deputies liked doing so.

And in the courtroom, I observed that Judge Raymond P. Berry - the same judge hearing most of the arraignments for the 200 people who have been arrested - has become more adept at reading the mandated state script about defendant's rights to counsel, rights to contact someone and the other assorted legalities.

He also now reads the script with the same enthusiasm as a flight attendant explaining how to buckle your seat belt on a commuter airline.

January 13, 2015

The sun is shining, the snow is falling and I want to stay inside

WATKINS GLEN, New York - This phenomenon I don't remember from my years growing up in Lakewood, NY.

The sun is out (albeit low on the horizon) and it is snowing - fairly heavily with swirling winds and snow accumulating fast enough that the village snowplow has roared past twice in the past hour.

Outside my office window, between snow squalls

I wouldn't be quite so winter sensitive today if I didn't have to bundle up in every piece of clothing I own and go out. With the temperature down at 10 degrees (probably zero with the wind chill) the sensible thing to do would be to stay indoors, get my exercise by bouncing on my mini-trampoline and eat some of Adm. Sylvia Fox's excellent minestrone soup.

But nooooo.

The Town of Reading court has called a special 2 p.m. session that I need to attend to shoot some photos for the Finger Lakes Times newspaper of Geneva. A 1:30 p.m. rally will precede the court - held outside!

But mostly I need to get the skinny on whether the town officials will let people into the town building (those persons not required to go into court) to stay warm while court is in session. In recent weeks the town officials have not let people in, except to go directly to the small courtroom. But those times were in the evening when the building is normally closed. Today's session is, well, during the day. And logic would indicate the public building would be open to, well, the public.

But this is the Town of Reading, New York.

Will the Reading officials do the right thing and let people in the town hall. Or make them shiver outside in subzero temperatures?

My already cold feet are rooting that they do let people in. If they don't, my Ugg boots will have to work overtime, again.

January 9, 2015

The Captain's Blog six-month sabbatical has ended

WATKINS GLEN, New York - After a six-month hiatus to chase other writing projects (including the novel, Fracking Justice) The Captain's Blog is up and running again.

In this era of Facebook and Twitter, blogging in some ways seems waaaay too slow and cumbersome. Ironically, blogging has become the equivalent of long-form journalism in the social-media sphere.

Noting that, this post will be brief.

Hans and Franz, or is it Franz and Hans?
Adm. Sylvia Fox and I (as the dateline indicates) are in Watkins Glen, not Puerto Vallarta (or even California) where we would normally be this time of the year. Instead, we are wearing Ugg boots, long underwear, covering up our faces with balaclavas and stuffing ourselves into enough clothing to resemble "Hans and Franz" from an old Saturday Night Live skit.

Our Toyota Tundra is sporting aggressive-looking snow tires on the rear wheels and sandbags in pickup's bed. And my red Nissan truck has been living most of its days at a local auto shop getting minor repairs done.

It doesn't seem to like the zero-degree temperatures and blowing snow.

But we are foregoing  sub-tropical and tropical climes to help in a regional effort to stop a Texas corporation named Crestwood from turning the shore of Seneca Lake into an sprawling industrial wasteland of natural gas and liquid propane gas storage.

Sometimes this fight seems like a Don-Quixote/Sancho-Panza-like endeavor, other times not, such as when NY Governor Andrew Cuomo banned hydrofracking for natural gas in December.

When he made his announcement it clearly felt like a windmill had been toppled in a crash that still has hydrofracking supporters stunned.

If you read Cervantes' novel, you know that even Don Quixote gets a good shot in once in awhile.

That why I believe Crestwood of Houston will be the next to fall.

Sancho! Hand me my sword!