Public defends "pristine, beautiful" Seneca Lake at gas hearing

Sep 28, 2011

Bill Moler, the president of the Inergy subsidiary that aims to store 2.1 million gallons of propane in salt caverns next to Seneca Lake, faced a tough crowd on Tuesday night.

He attended a Department of Conservation-organized public hearing in Watkins Glen, and was tasked with trying to persuade the crowd that the project would go largely unnoticed - and would yield lower propane prices in the region.

But that wasn't a convincing argument to those who came to voice their opposition. Hundreds of local residents turned out, and many expressed fears the project would industrialize a region that depends on tourism.

One of the area's winery owners, Lou Damiani, says the project could never fit with the character of Seneca Lake.

"What we have here in this pristine beautiful lake area is an economic engine that dwarfs what is being proposed by Inergy," says Damiani.

Some local business owners expressed their support for the project. They faced catcalls and booing from a vocal opposition, organized by the group Gas Free Seneca.

That group is calling for the state to require an independent qualitative risk assessment before giving final approval. Moler says that would be overkill for this project.

"Qualitative risk assessment is reserved for nuclear facilities, department of defense facilities and the airline industry," he argues.

The public comment period ends October 10. After reviewing the comments, the Department of Environmental Conservation will either ask for more information from Inergy or issue its final report.