Police made 10 arrests Wednesday as ongoing "We Are Seneca Lake" climate protests entered their sixth week in central New York, where residents are engaging in a civil disobedience campaign against a planned gas storage facility on the lake's shores.
At a rally in front of the Reading Town Court on Wednesday night, six of the arraigned protesters plead guilty and vowed to serve jail time rather than pay a fine.
"Protesters who rally under the banner of 'We Are Seneca Lake' are apparently prepared to endure the hardships of incarceration in order to send a message that their protest won't stop until Crestwood stops," the group said in a statement.
A total of 83 arrests have now been made as protesters continue their fight to prevent Texas-based energy company Crestwood Midstream from using unstable salt caverns along Seneca Lake to store methane gas, which activists say would threaten the health and livelihood of residents and business-owners in the area. Among their concerns are the project's potential impact on drinking water for more than 100,000 people, as well as agriculture, tourism, and public health.
"I am not willing to stand by any longer while the air quality deteriorates and the watershed is threatened." —Paula Fitzsimmons
The project was approved by the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) despite broad public opposition and unanswered questions about the health risks of storing highly pressurized, explosive gas in abandoned salt caverns, the protesters say.
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"This is an attempt to dispel the myth that this movement is an ‘outside' movement, filled with 'professional protesters,'" said Phil Davis, a winery owner and resident who was among those taken into custody on Wednesday. "However, we welcome all comers, as we must when dealing with a watershed for over 100,000 people and air that we all breathe. It will take people from all over to protect the environment and to stand up to Crestwood, the true outsider in this threat."
Paula Fitzsimmons, a physician assistant, called the Crestwood project a "public health risk of an unacceptable magnitude."
Activists say gas storage in unlined salt caverns has a 40 percent risk of failure within 25 years. The proposed facility on Seneca Lake, the largest of the Finger Lakes, would be unprecedented in size and the biggest in the U.S. and increase the methane within the caverns from 1.5 billion cubic feet to an eventual 10 billion cubic feet, according to Crestwood.
"I am not willing to stand by any longer while the air quality deteriorates and the watershed is threatened," Fitzsimmons added.