Inergy, LP, is a diversified energy infrastructure and distribution company based in Kansas City, Missouri. The follow points are taken directly from http://www.inergylp.com:
- Leading natural gas storage & transportation and NGL [Natural Gas Liquid] storage provider in the Northeast U.S. and Texas
- Coast-to-coast provider of NGL marketing, storage, distribution, and supply & risk management services
- Provider of critical crude oil storage and terminalling operations on top of the Bakken Shale
- The owner of a premier evaporative salt production company in upstate New York
In Reading, NY, 2 miles north of Watkin’s Glen on Seneca Lake, Inergy plans to store millions of barrels of natural gas and liquid petroleum gas in two depleted salt caverns. Inergy has been acquiring LP and natural gas storage in this region since 2005 and they hope to make the Finger Lakes Region, “a gas storage and transportation hub” for the northeastern states. The company has documented plans to increase their salt cavern storage capacity to 5 million barrels (210 million gallons) of LPG and has recently acquired NYSEG’s 2 billion cubic feet of underground natural gas storage with plans to expand to 5-10 billion cubic feet. The volume of gas to be stored in this area is unprecedented. This proposed LPG storage facility alone will be the largest in the Northeast and one of the largest in the U.S.
What are our concerns?
(The following information was largely adapted from gasfreeseneca.com)
Structural integrity of the caverns
The structural quality of these salt caverns has been explicitly deemed unsafe. One cavern was retired over ten years ago after its roof collapsed in a minor earthquake. The other cavern is under a rock formation weakened by faults characterized by “rock movement” and “structural collapse.” Inergy performed its own studies and declared the caverns structurally sound to store 2.1 million barrels (88.1 million gallons) of liquid propane and butane. Inergy refuses to provide the studies to the public without pages after pages of redactions.
Explosions in salt caverns
Salt caverns have been more prone to catastrophic accidents than the other more common types of underground storage for natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). Since 1972, there have been 11 instances of catastrophic failure of underground gas storage facilities and each one has been a salt cavern facility. Many have included explosions with fire and loss of life, and some have required the evacuation of entire towns. Communities in states like Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri have lived with massive, industrial scale methane and LPG storage facilities as their neighbors and have had to adapt to potential dangers. Local communities have emergency management plans already in place and equipment and personnel to handle a worst case scenario. Our local, mostly volunteer, fire departments and emergency first responders are not equipped to handle disasters of this magnitude.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation was concerned enough about the proposal to require Inergy to submit a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) saying the facility “may have a significant adverse impact on the environment.” Inergy submitted a statement that the DEC deemed inadequate, and Inergy is revising it now. The DEC’s current draft analysis does not go far enough and overlooks critical questions like how this project will affect air quality.
The proposed LPG facility represents air, water, soil and noise pollution concerns. Risks of gas leaks and compromised brine pits on steep slopes can devastate water and soil quality, as well as wildlife in and around the lake. Seneca Lake is a Class AA drinking water source for 100,000 people, and salt contamination to potable water supplies is nearly impossible to remediate. Additionally, Inergy has recently received a SPDES (State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit to discharge an addition 44 thousand pounds of chloride into Seneca Lake per day.
This facility and the upsurge in truck traffic will dramatically increase the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are known to be particularly harmful to grapevines. Massive industrial lights, noise and emissions from the compressors, trains and trucks at the center of a tourist region are cause for serious ongoing concern.
To service the storage facility, Inergy will build a new truck depot capable of loading and unloading 4 semi-trucks per hour and a new 6 track siding capable of loading and unloading 24 rail cars in 12 hours. This depot will be able to run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year round, bringing trucks and train cars filled with propane and butane in and out of this facility in a constant cycle. The trucks will run through RTs 14 and 14A and the train cars will cross the tracks running over the Gorge.
A 60-foot flare stack, with a clearly visible burning flame, would be erected to handle burn off of LPG during the brine transfer process. The DEC has questioned whether the proposed flare stack can handle the capacity that would be needed in certain instances.
The nature of injecting LPG deep into salt caverns requires machinery to compress the propane and butane and force it into the ground under high pressure. There will be four 700hp compressors on the site. Many of the concerns expressed by the DEC are focused on the noise level emitted from these compressors.
Impacts on Tourism economy (not including wineries and vineyards)
In 2008, Schuyler, Seneca, Ontario, and Yates county visitors spent more than $307 million. The tourism sector employed 6,335 people and generated $146 million in labor income. Visitor spending contributed $20 million in local taxes, and $19 million in state taxes.
Impacts on Wine economy
In 2010, there were 21 firms classified as grape vineyards, employing a total of 161 people and paying wages of approximately $2.7 million and 45 firms classified as wineries, employing 1,017 people and paying wages of approximately $24.5 million. The constant truck traffic running up and down Rt. 14, as well as the noise and visible industrial zone will hinder tourism to this region, and massive industrialization of this scale has been known to negatively affect property values.
Expansion of hydrofracking
There is strong relationship between natural gas storage and fracking. John Sherman, Inergy’s CEO, talks about the transportation and storage hub and its relationship to the Marcellus Shale in a video titled “Inergy: Making Marcellus Happen.” In it, he states: “Inergy’s opportunities in the Northeast continue to be enhanced by the Marcellus Shale. The aggressive pace of exploration and development of the Marcellus will play an
important role in Inergy’s midstream growth.”
Fossil fuel extraction and required infrastructure continue to propagate climate change. Climate change is intensifying dramatically—we need to immediately transition to a clean energy economy.
 Source: Andrew Rumbach (Doctoral Candidate Cornell University Dept. of City and Regional Planning)
 Source: NYS Dept. of Labor, Andrew Rumbach