Sept. 6, 2012, Watkins Glen – More than two dozen antifracktivists showed up on short notice this morning to support two men from Schuyler County who chained themselves across the gate at the Inergy, Inc., Compressor Station on the west side of Seneca Lake. The station is the access to the planned multimillion-dollar Inergy gas storage facility using depleted salt caverns.
The action started at 10:00 a.m., when the quickly assembled group set up “No LPG Storage Facility” signs and other signs calling for renewable energy now, water protection, clean air, a halt to further industrialization, “No Fracking,” and related messages. The activists shielded themselves from the bright sunshine using black umbrellas painted with white letters reading “No Frack,” and many of them wore clothing that sported similar messages.
The two men who chained themselves to the gate, Jeremy Alderson and Gary Judson, and their supporters were in good spirits as they stood in front of the Inergy facility.
“It is time to put ourselves on the line,” said one protester, Jeanie. “This is our beautiful, pristine lake, and we want to keep it that way.”
The Missouri-based Inergy, L.P., according to its own definition, is a “natural gas storage and NGL supply logistics, transportation, and wholesale marketing business. . . .Through its general partner interest and majority equity ownership interest in Inergy Midstream, L.P. (NYSE: NRGM), Inergy is also engaged in the development and operation of a natural gas and NGL storage and transportation business in the Northeast region of the United States.”
In its public meetings in Schuyler County, Inergy outright contradicts itself to officials and the public. It has repeatedly claimed that it intends only to “store LPG [liquid petroleum gas]” in the salt caverns, and denies any connection with fracking. Yet its own marketing, investor materials, and recently updated website show otherwise: The company is actually very closely tied to fracking. It owns miles and miles of “natural” gas pipeline and is developing more in this region.
It literally intends to turn the Finger Lakes region into an industrial zone. In its own words: “Our near-term strategy is to continue to develop a platform of interconnected natural gas assets that can be operated as an integrated Northeast storage and transportation hub.”
The activists who showed up today know the company’s intentions. They decided it was time to stop allowing the industry to lie with impunity and treat them — and the natural environment on which all life in the region depends — with disdain. The Finger Lakes and central New York are known for stunning gorges, clear lakes, fresh air, vineyards, orchards, organic farms, and outdoor recreational attractions. Turning the region over to heavy industrialization with the accompanying water, air, and soil pollution, would forever change the course of all their lives, destroy existing businesses, and forever alter the watersheds, air supply, soils, and character of this renowned tourist destination.
“I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I didn’t do something to stop them,” said 53-year-old Susan Walker of Dundee, one of the three arrested today. “Five generations of my family have loved this lake and area. Blood is even thicker than water, and my blood goes back a long way here.”
Before today, Walker’s only brush with the law was a traffic ticket. “It was years ago,” she said. “I got a ticket in Honeoye Falls, for not fully stopping at a red light.”
The lake, their homes, and their clean water, air, and croplands are worth defending, said Gary Judson, 72, who was arrested after having chained himself to the gate along with Jeremy Alderson, 63.
Around 10:40 a.m., Walker was driving to the site and passed a posse of police cars on Route 14A, just a mile or so away. “There were about five state trooper cars and four to five red and white sheriff’s cars,” she reported. “What really caught my eye was the large K9 car.”
That threat did not materialize on the site. At 11:50 a.m., a sheriff’s car and two police vehicles arrived at the scene. A large, red-shirted man identified himself as Schuyler County Sheriff Bill Yessman. He was accompanied by uniformed officers and a video camera operator, all male.
“I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” he said. Alderson invited him and his staff to partake of ice cold beverages (all sealed), brought especially for them. “We know you may have to arrest us,” said Alderson. “We feel that we’re fighting for your future, too.”
“You have the right to protest,” answered the sheriff. “But if you don’t leave in 15 minutes, we’ll have to arrest you.” He claimed the group were blocking the entrance and trespassing on Inergy’s land.
Alderson asked where Inergy’s land ended, and Yessman said it ended at the shoulder of the road.
Alderson and Judson introduced themselves to the sheriff and thanked him for the clear instructions. Every five minutes the sheriff returned to give a time notice, until the 15 minutes had expired.
Except for Walker, who decided to join the two men in being arrested, the other activists moved off to the shoulder of the road, from where they joined the arrestees in singing, “I shall not be moved,” and “We love New York, Don’t frack New York.” They also chanted, “No Inergy, No LPG!” as the three were placed in the police vehicle. Alderson, Judson, and Walker were arrested in order.
The majority of the protesters were from Schuyler and Yates Counties along Seneca Lake. They were joined by a few allies from Tioga, Tompkins, and Cortland Counties who had gotten word of the event via a press release sent out by Alderson as he was chaining himself and Judson to the fence at 10:00 a.m. (See separate entry.) Well-known author, environmental scientist, and antifracktivist Sandra Steingraber was present as a witness. Her son, Elijah, was born in Schuyler County, and the winds from Schuyler blow over her home in nearby Trumansburg.
The arrested three were brought to the Schuyler County sheriff’s office, where they were charged with trespassing, processed, and told to appear in court on Wednesday, September 19, at 7:00 p.m. The courthouse is located at 914 County Rd 28, Watkins Glen NY 14891.
Jeremy Alderson being arrested