Vigils and/or Letters for Seneca Lake 12

Join the Facebook event here.

On April 17, Michael Dineen, Sandra Steingraber and Melissa Chipman of the “Seneca Lake 12” were sentenced to 15 days in jail for refusing to pay the $375 fine for blockading the gates of Inergy on Seneca Lake on 3/18.

Michael is in Schuyler County Jail, 106 Tenth St, Unit 2, Watkins Glen, NY 14891.

Sandra & Melissa are in Chemung Co Jail, 211 William St, Elmira, NY 14901.

VIGILS will be held every evening, 6-8 pm in BOTH locations until their release. They are expected to be released on Th, Apr 25 — for “good behavior.”

The 3 have been in touch. The jails are cold and they are deprived of books and social interaction. In honor of their sacrifice, let’s try to grow our movement. Sandra requested that in lieu of writing to her, please write Letters to the Editor instead. RSVP here so we can see how many are participating and report that to Sandra, Melissa and Michael. Feel free to copy your LTE and send it to any or all of them, to keep up their morale.

To find addresses of local papers, just type in your zip code here: . Scroll down on that page for some tips on submitting LTEs.

Talking points about INERGY:
1) The salt caverns Inergy is proposing for storing explosive butane, methane and LPG (liquid petroleum gas) have been deemed UNRELIABLE.
2) Inergy’s plan to transform the Finger Lakes into the “NE hub of transportation for LPG” will bring us a NET LOSS OF JOBS. They are only promising fewer than 10 jobs, and they will destroy the wine trails with all their truck traffic and air pollution.
3) Inergy has violated the Clean Water Act for every quarter in the past three years.
4) The salinity of Seneca Lake is rising because Inergy has been dumping 22 tons of salt into it DAILY for over a year, with no end in sight.

WE CAN BLOCK INERGY. A law suit is in the works, and Senator Nozzolio and the Seneca Bd of Supervisors want Inergy to remove itself from the edge of our beautiful lake, which is drinking water for 100,000 of us. BUT WE NEED YOUR HELP RAISING AWARENESS.

THANK YOU! We can get this done, together.

Sandra Steingraber: Letter from Chemung County Jail, Part 1

April 18, 2013

When Henry David Thoreau spend a night in jail for civil disobedience – defining the term in the process – he was served chocolate and brown bread for breakfast. The tray that was slid under my bars at 5:00am this morning contained nothing as tasty. In fact, I’d be hard pressed to say what the ingredients were. Packets of instant hot cocoa (artificial) are available from the commissary for a price – along with ramen noodles, decaf coffee, Jolly Rogers, shampoo, pencils, envelopes and paper.

There is no window in my cell. The lights are on all night. The television is on all day. Through the bars that make up the fourth wall of my new living quarters, I have a view of the catwalk, which is patrolled by guards, and then another wall of bars, and beyond those bars is a window made up of small panes of opaque glass. At about seven o’clock, one of the inmates asked for fresh air, and the guard, whom everyone calls Murphy’s Law, cranked open the grid of panes, just a little.

Now, I can stand at my own bars, and move my head in different directions – jumping up and down works the best – and see through the scrims of multiple layers of bars – a glimpse of the outside world. There are row houses with windows and no bars – which in fact suddenly seems miraculous – and I thought I saw a bird fly by. No trees through; only slinky–like concertina wire. Somewhere, beyond the shouting of the television, there are church bells.

Thoreau said, about his own experience with incarceration, that the confinement of his physical self was inconsequential; that freedom was a state of mind. Or something like that. I have neither the book, nor Google, to help me fact-check. But I am very aware of my physical self, and sense that my biological life in jail is part of my message. Even though I am entirely cut off from everything, I know and love – my children and my husband, the April return of birdsong and wildflowers and pollination and photosynthesis. I believe this is the place to speak about fossil fuel extraction in general and fracking infrastructure in specific.

I now inhabit an ugly, miserable, loud and ungraceful world. There are no flowers; no local, delicious food; no tranquil landscapes; and not even coffee or tea.

If we do not want New York to become a prison of wellheads, pipelines and compressor stations; if we do not want the violence of climate change instability and mass species extinction; if we do not want to leave our children a diminished world bereft of frog song, bees, coral reefs, sea ice; then coming to a place as far removed from the rhythms of the natural world as a jail cell is not an inappropriate place to say so.

Henry David Thoreau portrait by Robert Shetterly, @Americans Who Tell the Truth

Sandra Steingraber: Prepared Sentencing Statement for the Reading Town Court, April 17, 2013

Sandra Steingraber.  Photo Credit: Sarah Kelsen

Sandra Steingraber. Photo Credit: Sarah Kelsen

Your Honor, I am not a lawyer. I am a biologist and a human being. I am also a mother of a 14-year-old and an 11-year-old. I bring all these identities to your courtroom tonight.

I am guilty of an act of trespass. On March 18, I willfully stood on private property owned by the Inergy company and blocked access to a compressor station site that is being constructed in order to prepare explosive hydrocarbon gases, propane and butane, for storage in abandoned salt caverns that are located beside and beneath Seneca Lake.

In my field of environmental health, the word trespass has meaning. Toxic trespass refers to involuntary human exposure to a chemical or other pollutant. It is a contamination without consent. It is my belief, as a biologist, that Inergy is guilty of toxic trespass. Inergy has been out of compliance with EPA regulations every quarter for the past three years. In spite of this, Inergy applied for, and has received, from the state of New York a permit to discharge, every day, an additional 44,000 pounds of chloride into Seneca Lake.That’s 22 tons a day. That’s 8000 tons a year. Seneca Lake is a source of drinking water for 100,000 people. Those industrial discharges trespass into the bodies of those who drink it.

Additionally, Inergy’s planned 60-foot flare stack will release hazardous air pollutants, including ozone precursors, as will the fleets of diesel trucks hauling propane. This kind of air pollution is linked to heart attack and stroke risk, preterm birth, and asthma in children. Thus does Inergy trespass into our air and lungs. I see this as a real danger to my 11-year-old son, who has a history of asthma. We live 15 miles to the east—directly downwind—from this facility.

Inergy’s plans to industrialize the lakeshore will bring 24/7 light and noise pollution into a tranquil community. These forms of trespass also have health consequences, including increased risk for breast cancer and elevated blood pressure.

And because Inergy is building out infrastructure for the storage and transportation of greenhouse gases obtained by fracturing shale, Inergy trespasses into our climate and contributes to its ongoing destablization at a time when the best science show us that we need to be rapidly moving away from fossil fuels of all kinds.

Lastly, the risk of catastrophic accidents from the storage of liquefied petroleum gases in salt caverns is real. It has happened in at least 10 previous occasions. The 14-acre sinkhole in Belle Rose, Louisiana, which is now making headlines, was caused by a collapsed salt cavern. It sent crude oil gushing up into surface water and natural gas into groundwater.

As a biologist, I have submitted expert comments and petitions about Inergy’s application for permits to both the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. However, I am hampered in my efforts to judge the structural soundness of the salt caverns because the company that owns them insists that the scientific research that documents the history of these caverns—at least one of which sits on a fault line—is a trade secret.

Your honor, how can geological history become proprietary information? Without access to data, how can any member of the public evaluate the risks we are being compelled to endure by the repurposing of salt caverns into giant underground cigarette lighters?

In closing, my actions were taken to protest the trespass of Inergy into our air, water, bodies, safety, and security. My small, peaceful act of trespass was intended to prevent a much larger, and possibly violent one.

The people of Bellrose, Lousiana, are now facing relocation after the catastrophic collapse of the salt cavern there. Family homes are being abandoned. And the signs on the front lawns of the empty houses read, “No trespassing.”

To bring attention to such hazards for the Finger Lakes–and for the act of protecting water, which is life itself–I trespassed. It was an act of civil disobedience. For that, and because I have deep respect for the rule of law, which Inergy company does not, I am willing to go to jail.

MEDIA ALERT for 4/17: Three Peaceful Protesters Including Dr. Sandra Steingraber to Face Judge Wed. Evening


For Immediate Release                                                                      April 15, 2013

Contacts: Jack Ossont

     Chris Tate

Three Peaceful Protesters Including Dr. Sandra Steingraber to Face Judge Wed. Evening

Press event and rally will be held in Watkins Glen before 7 PM arraignment.                      

Who:  Melissa Chipman, Michael Dineen, and Sandra Steingraber, PhD, of the Seneca Lake 12

What: Press Event 5:00 pm, Glen Harbor/Seneca Harbor Station Marina Park, south end of Seneca Lake off of N. Decatur St., Watkins Glen

            Rally 5:30 pmSame location

            Hearing 7:00 pmReading Town Court, 3914 Co. Rd 28, Watkins Glen

When: Wednesday April 17, 2013, Three events, two locations, see above

The three defendants will explain their decision to engage in civil disobedience and announce their further intentions at a press event/rally before their court appearances. Both events will be held in the park next to the marina in the Glen Harbor area of Watkins Glen, beginning at 5 PM.

The hearing will take place in Reading Town Court at 7:00 pm and will include the arraignment of biologist and author Sandra Steingraber, PhD, distinguished scholar in residence at Ithaca College and a prominent critic of fracking and its related infrastructure, along with Schuyler County resident and businesswoman Melissa Chipman and Seneca County resident and farm owner Michael Dineen.


The “Seneca Lake 12” were arrested on March 18 for blockading the gas compressor station site at the southwest end of Seneca Lake. They did so to demonstrate their opposition to the intentions of Inergy, LLC, a Missouri-based company, to force industrialization of a lake that serves as the source of drinking water for 100,000 people—and eventually the entire Finger Lakes region.

Without consent from local affected communities, Inergy plans to turn the region into a fossil fuel transportation and storage hub for the Northeast. This threatens public health and safety, and would adversely affect the local tourist and agricultural economy. The protesters foresee that this is an early step in a build-out of infrastructure to support the distribution of shale gas from fracking, a dubious method of extreme energy extraction which has had myriad toxic consequences in other states.

Five of the Seneca Lake 12 have already appeared in court and were ordered to pay fines of $375 each. The previous arrestees paid their fines, with the financial support of the local community.

Further background, video, photos, quotes,

The next three Seneca Lake 12 defendants will appear in Reading Town Court on May 1.


For Melissa Chipman and Michael Dineen: Jack Ossont 607-243-7262,

For Sandra Steingraber: Chris Tate

Join us on 4/17 for Court Hearing for “Seneca Lake 12”

RSVP on Facebook

UPDATE: At 5 pm, we’ll gather with music for a pre-hearing RALLY at Watkins Glen Harbor Park. The defendants will speak 5:30-6ish pm. Map available here.
Directions to rally: From Rte 414 (“4th St”) in Watkins Glen, turn north on Decatur St; go the end, to edge of Seneca Lake.

After the rally, come to the court hearing for citizens who were arrested for blocking the gates of Inergy, on Seneca Lake. Arrive by 6:45; seating is limited to 47. Hearing dates:
April 17: Melissa Chipman, Michael Dineen & Sandra Steingraber
May 1: Jim Borra, Spike Jones & Margie Rodgers. And Jeremy Alderson of the “Seneca 3” whose action took place in September.

Past hearings:
March 20: KC Alvey, Dennis Fox & Jack Ossont.
April 3: Crow Marley, Katya Andersson & Mahats Miller. They were all fined the max, $375/each. Many thanks to everyone who donated. We raised enough to pay the fines for all 12, although some chose to pay it themselves. Any surplus will go to support future actions.

Why the blockade? Why should we be concerned?
Seneca Lake supplies drinking water for over 100,000 people. This is threatened by an out-of-state corporation that wants to store massive amounts of highly explosive NGLs (Natural Gas Liquids including Liquefied Propane Gas or “LPG”), Butane and Methane (“natural gas”) in the salt caverns under the lake, caverns which have already been deemed unreliable for this purpose.

Inergy’s stated business goal is to turn Watkins Glen into the NE hub of transportation and storage for NGLs. They plan to massively expand infrastructure support for fracking and fossil fuels at a time when we need to stop dangerous global warming and climate instability. Inergy’s plan would industrialize our landscapes, clog our roads, adversely impact winery-tourism, and pollute our air and water. We say “NO” to Inergy, “NO” to more infrastructure for fossil fuels.

If you feel these citizens stood up for your interests, please show your support. We will post updates here. Thank you!

Not a Single Inch We’ll Give

We will fight at the pipelines,
We will fight at the rigs,
We will fight at the compressors,
Not a single inch we’ll give.

We will fight in Watkins Glen,
We will fight in Minisink,
We will fight in Horseheads,
Not a single inch we’ll give.


10:00: Protesters have linked arms and deployed a banner reading “Our Future is Unfractured, We Are Greater Than Dirty Inergy”, blockading the entrance of the Inergy facility in Watkins Glen. Sandra Steingraber PhD., biologist, author and Trumansburg, NY resident, is risking arrest alongside residents of Seneca Lake and local college students to oppose Kansas City, MO based Inergy, LP’s natural gas and liquid petroleum gas storage facility, which would lock in natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale region. The blockade joins a growing national movement to call attention to environmental injustices caused by unconventional and extreme fossil fuel extraction techniques, including Inergy’s hotly debated salt cavern gas storage facility proposed for Reading, NY.

10:21: Sheriff has just arrived on scene as eleven blockaders and their supporters sing: “We will fight on the pipelines, we will fight on the rigs, we will fight on the compressors, not a single inch we’ll give.”

10:30: Sheriff deputy: “I’m asking you to move, because there will be other people coming up here, and they might not be as nice to you as me.”

10:35: One blockader, on the truck attempting to enter the facility: “I’m glad the truck’s here, so we’re risking arrest for actually doing something.”

10:38: Police have asked blockaders to move, giving a ten minute warning. Blockade remains strong with another chorus of, “Not a single inch we’ll give!”

10:41: Five minute warning.

10:45: Truck attempting to enter the facility has turned away and left, truck attempting to exit has not moved.

10:48: Police confiscate banner.

10:50: Five arrests, four blockaders and one legal observer. Legal observers are traditionally respected in their role as non-participants, but one has been arrested for accidentally having one foot on Inergy property.

10:54: Second round of arrests, four blockaders handcuffed. State trooper arrives on scene, joining four other police vehicles.

10:56: Truck leaves facility, passing three remaining blockaders.

11:04: Mother, biologist and author Sandra Steingraber, Green Umbrella organizer KC Alvey, and local organizer Jack Ossont are last of blockaders to face arrest. The facility was successfully blockaded for one hour. Jail support is tracking arrestees and  our medics are making sure they have everything they need.

12:46: All arrestees released, cited with trespassing violations.