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Gas-storage Plans In NY's Finger Lakes Draw Outcry

Steingraber and a coalition of groups called Don't Frack New York have collected more than 3,000 signatures on a "Pledge to Resist Fracking," which says signers will engage in "non-violent acts of protest" if Gov. Andrew Cuomo lifts a 5-year-old moratorium on shale gas development in the state.

Companies have been solution-mining salt beside Seneca Lake for more than a century. The process involves drilling about 2,000 feet down into a salt formation left by an ancient sea. Water is injected to dissolve salt, creating brine that's evaporated to yield salt. The caverns left behind make ideal storage spaces for natural gas and propane, and previous owners have used the Seneca Lake salt caverns for gas storage for decades.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration says depleted gas fields account for the vast majority of the nation's 410 underground storage facilities. But most new storage facilities built since 2007 have been salt caverns, which are strong and impervious to gas.

Inergy Midstream, based in Kansas City, Mo., wants to build a natural gas storage and transportation hub in the Northeast with connections to the Dominion and Millennium interstate pipelines. The gas, propane and butane stored in the salt mines would likely come from conventional drilling, as well as shale gas drilling using high-volume fracking.

Inergy bought the U.S. Salt plant on Seneca Lake, 2 miles north of Watkins Glen, in 2008 and announced plans to use depleted salt caverns to store liquid propane gas that is pumped into the open spaces. New York's Department of Environmental Conservation is expected to decide on the company's environmental impact study soon.

Inergy Midstream said via email: "Propane and natural gas have been stored safely in this region for decades, and we look forward to building upon the established track record of safe hydrocarbon storage in this region while creating jobs, lowering energy prices for area residents, and helping to support the local economy."

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