60 + Farmers, Chefs, Wine Makers, Bartenders, Restaurant Owners and Finger Lakes Food Lovers Host Protest Banquet at Crestwood Midstream Gate in Continuing Civil Disobedience Campaign Against Seneca Lake Gas Storage

60 + Farmers, Chefs, Wine Makers, Bartenders, Restaurant Owners and Finger Lakes Food Lovers Host Protest Banquet at Crestwood Midstream Gate in Continuing Civil Disobedience Campaign Against Seneca Lake Gas Storage

Protesters Include Celebrity Chefs Emma Frisch of Firelight Camps and Scott Signori of Stonecat Cafe, Northstar Restaurant Owner Lee Hamilton, Baker Stefan Senders, and Renowned Organic Farmers Chaw Chang and Tony Potenza.

– Wearing coveralls, kitchen aprons, chef’s hats, and bee-keeper veils, luminaries in the Finger Lakes food and farming industry staged a protest banquet in the form of an al fresco feast at the gates of Crestwood on Route 14, two miles north of Watkins Glen. All together, more than 60 Finger Lakes food luminaries—and their supporters—rallied outside of the compressor station as part of an ongoing civil disobedience campaign called “We Are Seneca Lake.”

Setting up banquet tables along the snowy roadside, the protesters served a midday protest brunch that featured meatballs, frittatas, saurkraut, artisanal bread, popcorn, salads, cheeses, and desserts that were prepared from local, seasonal ingredients. During toasts and speeches, protesters said their intent was to raise awareness among local residents, media and legislators about the new threat that gas storage—and the massive industrialization that accompanies it—will pose to the culinary bounty of the Finger Lakes. By coming to the gates of natural gas compressor station with dishes to pass that represent the Finger Lakes region, their food business, their farm or their restaurant, protesters said that they are literally bringing to life the essence of their region and what is at stake here.

After the meal, some participants rallied along the edge of the highway, while 17 others blockaded Crestwood’s driveway, holding banners that proclaimed, “Farmers & Eaters Against Crestwood: Food & Farms, Not Gassy Bombs!” and “We Are Seneca Lake and We Are Growing (wine, cider, beans, wheat, syrup).”

Protesters blocked the main entrance to Crestwood for four hours in below-freezing temperatures, preventing all traffic from entering or leaving the facility. No arrests were made. At 3:30 p.m. the protesters dispersed.

The total number of arrests in the ongoing protest stands at 200

Celebrity chef and co-owner of Firelight Camps Emma Frisch organized the banquet. Frisch said, “Food is a universal language that brings people together. I believe we can spread the word about this threat to our beloved Seneca Lake by inviting people to celebrate the bounty of our region with a feast. I'm committed to protecting the bounty that has defined the Finger Lakes as a wine and culinary epicenter. As a chef and business owner in this region, it's my top priority to feed people clean, healthy food.

“I applied to be on Food Network Star because I was inspired to take my passion for farm-to-table nationwide. I found the courage to do so by living in a community where this approach to food is not a trend, but a centuries-old way of life--and it works. It would be devastating to see the very foundation of our home destroyed.”

Food and farm business consultant Krys Cail, 60, of the Town of Ulysses. Cail said, “After spending a decade and a half trying to help our farm and food economy and more than 40 years patronizing the fruit and vegetable markets around Seneca Lake, I would be heartbroken to see our marvelous success ruined by the Crestwood facility. In my policy work with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, I’ve learned how important a pristine agricultural environment is to our growing organic food sector and how much organic farmers want to protect it.”

Organic farmer and operator of the Stick and Stone Farm CSA, Chaw Chang Trumansburg, said, “I’m here for the food! And to make sure we can still produce it for many years to come. I take issue with the idea that a far-away corporation can risk the land, water and air around us without transparency or concern. I want to support the folks in my community who have already stood up to speak out against Crestwood. I am here to honor my late mother-in-law Gay Garrison, who worked tirelessly to ban fracking in New York State up until her death.”

Ethan Ash, 35, of Ithaca, co-chair of the agri-tourism committee for Tompkins County Strategic Tourism Board and entrepreneur with ventures in culinary and hospitality businesses, said, “As a resident of the Finger Lakes, I’m proud of the agriculture and culinary treasures in our region. And I'm excited about the growth of the agri-tourism industry as well as the impact it can have in creating jobs and dollars far surpassing that of a gas storage facility. I'm working with leaders to promote our region as an agriculture and culinary destination, and I’m here today in support of the very people who create these experiences and resources every day. If we protect and nurture these resources, we can grow the pie for everyone. If we mistreat our resources, there will be no pie.”

Stefan Senders, 56 of baker at the Wide Awake Bakery in Mecklenberg—twice arrested previously for civil disobedience at Seneca Lake--said, “I am here with members of my community--with farmers and restauranteurs, chefs and winemakers, cheese-makers, cider-makers, and bakers--to stand in support of our lakes and land. As food makers, we have devoted our lives to caring for our neighbors. We are in it for the long haul. We are not willing to sacrifice each other for a promise of boomtown money and a shaky guarantee of safety. They tell us, ‘Nothing can go wrong.’ But we have had enough experience to know: It can go wrong. It does go wrong. It has gone wrong.”

Those blockading were:

Jim Connor, 83, Mecklenburg

Pete Burgevin, 52, Hector

Sharon Kahkonen, 65, Mecklenburg

Anna Gibson, 60, Caroline

Ruth Groff, 63, Lansing

Akiva Silver, 35, Spencer

Janet McCue, 64, Hector

Anna Kelles, 40, Ithaca

Jane Russell, 63, Pulteney

Regina Randall, 37, Ithaca

Jodi Dean, 52, Geneva

Krys Cail, 60, Ulysses

Patricia Heckart, 63, Trumansburg

Rosalie Richter-Goldberg, 70, Ithaca

Alex Colket, 36, Ithaca College

Peggy Aker, 57, Trumansburg

Josh Dolan, 39, Ithaca

Read more about the arrested protesters at http://www.wearesenecalake.com/seneca-lake-defendes/.

Read more about the persistent bias of the Reading Town Court: http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/12/26/a-report-from-the-frontlines-in-t...

Read more about widespread objections to Crestwood’s gas storage plans: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/26/nyregion/new-york-winemakers-fight-gas....

Background on the agri-culinary status of the region:

The Finger Lakes region has the largest tourism economy outside of the metropolitan NYC area, with the largest spending category going to food and drink.

There are about 7,000 farms in the Finger Lakes, and 4,300 households in the Ithaca and Tompkins County area alone buy their fruits and vegetables directly from farmers.

According to the New York State Wine and Grape Foundation, there are more than 120 wineries in the Finger Lakes region with over 9,000 acres of vineyards that produce over 50,000 tons of grapes each harvest,

The most respected world-wide resource on wine and spirits, Wine Enthusiast, awarded the Finger Lakes “2014 Wine Region of the Year.”

Background on the protests:

Protesters have been blocking the Crestwood gas storage facility gates since Thursday, October 23, including a rally with more than 200 people on Friday, October 24th. 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. More information and pictures of the actions are available at www.WeAreSenecaLake.com.

The unified We Are Seneca Lake protests started on October 23rd because Friday, October 24th marked the day that major new construction on the gas storage facility was authorized to begin. The ongoing acts of civil disobedience come after the community pursued every possible avenue to stop the project and after being thwarted by an unacceptable process and denial of science. The protests are taking place at the gates of the Crestwood compressor station site on the shore of Seneca Lake, the largest of New York’s Finger Lakes.

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.

*Note that the WE ARE SENECA LAKE protest is to stop the expansion of methane gas storage, a separate project from Crestwood’s proposed Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) storage project, which is on hold pending a Department of Environmental Conservation Issues Conference on February 12.

As they have for a long time, the protesters are continuing to call on President Obama, U.S. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, Governor Cuomo, and Congressman Reed to intervene on behalf of the community and halt the dangerous project. In spite of overwhelming opposition, grave geological and public health concerns, Crestwood has federal approval to move forward with plans to store highly pressurized, explosive gas in abandoned salt caverns on the west side of Seneca Lake. While the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has temporarily halted plans to stockpile propane and butane (LPG) 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 (FERC).

More background, including about the broad extent of the opposition from hundreds of wineries and more than a dozen local municipalities, is available on the We Are Seneca Lake website at http://www.wearesenecalake.com/press-kit/

Contact 

Sandra Steingraber, 607-351-0719