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Environmentalist Sandra Steingraber, dressed as an elf, participated in Monday's civil disobedience action but was not one of the nine arrested. (Photo: Screenshot)

Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, and Seven Elves Arrested Blocking Gas Storage Facility

Over two-month civil disobedience campaign, 170 arrests have been made

Deirdre Fulton

Carrying banners that declared "Christmas Against Crestwood" and "Methane in Your Stocking is Worse Than Coal," nine local activists dressed as Santa Claus and his North Pole ensemble were arrested Monday and charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct at Texas-based Crestwood Midstream’s gas storage facility gates on the shore of Seneca Lake in New York.

Only Santa (Stefan Senders of Schuyler County) was handcuffed and searched before being taken into custody. The action marked nine weeks and 170 arrests as part of the 'We Are Seneca Lake' civil disobedience campaign.

Protesters have been blocking the Crestwood gas storage facility gates, on the shore of the largest of New York's Finger Lakes, since Thursday, October 23—the day before major new construction on the controversial gas storage facility was authorized to begin. On Wednesday, October 29, Crestwood called the police and the first 10 protesters were arrested. Since then, protests have been ongoing, with more arrests each week.

The methane gas storage expansion project is advancing in the face of broad public opposition and unresolved questions about geological instabilities, fault lines, and possible salinization of the lake, which serves as a source of drinking water for 100,000 people. Crestwood has indicated that it intends to make Seneca Lake the gas storage and transportation hub for the northeast, as part of the gas industry’s planned expansion of infrastructure across the region.

While the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has temporarily halted plans to stockpile propane and butane in nearby caverns—out of ongoing concerns for safety, health, and the environment—Crestwood is actively constructing infrastructure for the storage of two billion cubic feet of methane (natural gas), with the blessing of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

"As a greenhouse gas, methane is carbon dioxide's younger and more dangerous brother," said biologist Sandra Steingraber in a video documenting Monday's action. "It is 86 times more powerful at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. So the methane that will inevitably leak from these caverns, and the pipelines that feed them, will be trapped in the atmosphere. So scientists—plus Santa and elves together—are standing in solidarity with residents of Seneca Lake and we're going to shut this place down."

Watch the full video, featuring Santa's arrest and some re-imagined Christmas carols, below:

Monday's detentions followed 28 arrests last Wednesday in a blockade led by local musicians. While blockading a large truck, the musicians sang, danced, played instruments, and held banners that read "This Land is Our Land" and "Gas/Water: Which Side Are You On?"


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