Grief is a sacred journey

Angry Faces, Churning Water: Fracking Industry Threatens Seneca Lake

In July 2012, Tony Ingraham of Walk in the Park made my blog “Angry Faces, Placid Water: Fracking, LPG Gas Storage and Seneca Lake” into this video. Inergy, a Kansas City based company, was working on their facility on the shores of Seneca Lake, even though their permit had not been approved by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Along with others, I grieved for the lake and the land.

Concerned residents and businesses founded an organization called Gas Free Seneca to stop this facility. We agonized over water pollution, potential accidents, and trains loaded with gas traversing Watkins Glen State Park gorge trails. In recent years, the wine industry and tourism brought economic vitality to our region, but now we face a voracious industry that swoops in, takes the resources, pays off a few, and leaves a mess for the rest.

Seneca Sunset

On August 7, people gathered at the Glen Theater in Watkins Glen for an inspiring movie called “My Name is Allegany County” about Allegany’s successful civil disobedience efforts against a proposed nuclear waste dump. In Allegany County, the state government planned to take over private property, whereas we have a wealthy unregulated industry building a facility on property they quietly bought from a salt plant before local residents knew what hit them. Allegany also had those scary, but motivating words “nuclear waste dump” whereas we have liquid petrolem gas (LPG) and natural gas. I burn LPG gas in my kitchen stove, you might say as I do. How dangerous can it be?

Yes, but do you want LPG and natural gas in your drinking water? What about air-polluting gas flares and a massive increase in truck and train traffic? What about lake, ground, and well water pollution from leaks from the unlined mines and spills from brine ponds that are already happening at the Seneca Lake site? What about explosions and accidents that our local fire departments are ill-equipped to handle? What about the alarming ugliness Inergy is creating on the shores of our beautiful lake?

After the film, we discussed our next action, a march through Watkins Glen on Friday, August 17. We also considered future peaceful civil disobedience that could involve arrest, fines, or jail.

“It would be easy to block the road into the Inergy site,” one man suggested. Across the theater, a sullen man who works for Inergy took notes, not even bothering to be sneaky about it. I recognized him because he attends town and county meetings to speak in favor of the facility. It’s his job.

“Don’t worry if the industry knows what you’re doing,” Spike Jones advised. Spike is a retired military officer who was a leader in Allegany County and now travels around the state to help people plan effective actions against fracking. “The Inergy employee here is doing what he does for a living,” Spike said, “and you shouldn’t expect otherwise.”

The threat from Inergy and the fracking industry fills me with anticipatory grief, much as my husband’s aggressive cancer did, but Inergy doesn’t affect just one life or one family. It endangers us all.  It’s hard for people to keep their mind on gas industry risks when they have mortgages to pay and kids to raise, but this is our precious water and lake. If we allow it to be polluted by the fracking industry, what then?

I stay calm and gather resolve by repeating the sacred Indian name of Seneca Lake. As you’ll hear in the video, a Seneca Indian clan mother told her grandson that the lake loves to hear her true name. I love saying it to her.

Ga nun da sa ga  Te car ne o di

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Are you concerned about fracking or global warming? Can you help us protect Seneca Lake? For more information, go to Shaleshock or Hector Clean Water. For more about the threat to Seneca Lake, follow this link.

12 Comments
  1. You speak to the heart of the matter, Elaine. You speak the sacred name of Seneca. Thanks for speaking out against the LPG gas storage facility. You speak for many, many more.

    • Thank you, Jill. I’m glad to speak out in behalf of our sacred Finger Lakes and always appreciate your connection to the earth and support for my work.

  2. you know about the salt storage caverns in Assumption Parish in Lousisiana having a problem/sinkhole/ possible radiation & explosive butane issues?

    • Yes, I know and have been watching this one. So many alarming issues, including 2 brine pond spills at the local Inergy site–and they don’t even have an approved permit. Last night at the Hector Town Board meeting, a report on the town water system was given. I couldn’t comment because it was not public comment time, but Seneca Lake is the water source for the town water system. Some day, some time, people will make the connection. I hope it’s not too late.

  3. thank you and well done. i am a keuka lake cottage owner and am very concerned for the health of all the finger lakes as well as the whole upstate NY region and its residents. i am carefully watching as the watkins glen/seneca lake community rises up against this invasion. i live in pa, but hope to become involved in some way. thanks for speaking out.

    • Thank you, Karen, for your response and your concern. Yes, all of the Finger Lakes and the whole state and country are threatened by the gas industry. I’m becoming more outspoken as I see how things are developing. Join us for our peaceful citizen’s march in Watkins Glen on Friday, Aug. 17 if you possibly can. And introduce yourself.

  4. I have never been to the beautiful Finger Lakes. I have heard how amazing it is from my son and daughter in law. They always bring back delicious wine. Elaine, your video hit a soft spot, a continuing connection, as best as I can along with the Occupy Movement. So many Americans have no idea or interest how Energy, Economics and Freedom need to be seriously looked at so that our children and grandchildren can feel and express what you have just done through this film. I am posting this on my FB page, even though I have “only” 50 some friends:). I am also subscribing to your blog. Thank YOU for being there and connecting.

    • Thank you, Suzi. I am heading out the door for this afternoon’s march in Watkins Glen. It has been raining for hours, but the skies are clearing, so I feel smiled upon by the weather beings and by you. I so appreciate your response to my small efforts on behalf of our local gems of land and water and agree that this is a much broader and deeper political issue. Somehow we have to awaken to the fact that we are not leaving anything for those who come after us and we must stand up for them as well as ourselves. Thanks for sharing my posts and subscribing–and for connecting in so many ways. Connection to others who are far away is the best part of the internet. I LOVE your email address and am curious about that since I have been a student of mythology for many years.

  5. If we don’t stand up against the powers that be who will? We have a responsiblity to speak out and act up on this issue…Our gorges Finger Lakes is our bloodline, our home, our land and we will not stand by and let it be destroyed for the all mighty $$$$$! Come to the NY State Fair on the 23rd and tell Gov Cuomo to Frack off!

    • Thanks, Shirley, for your impassioned response. Unfortunately, I can’t be in Syracuse on Aug. 23 at the State Fair, but I have a bus ticket to attend the big Don’t Frack New York! Rally in Albany on August 27. It is crunch time for the fracking issue with all the mighty dollars aligned for fracking, so I hope the rest of us can show up with our bodies and hearts to protect our land and water. We had over 200 people at an anti-fracking rally in Watkins Glen on Friday as we focused on the storage facility planned on the shores of Seneca Lake. Concern about this issue is growing, but not fast enough. Thanks for getting the message out.

  6. Hi Elaine. I just came across your video and I’m so moved. Thank you for sharing this. My mother lived on Seneca for 25 years, and I grew up going to my grandfather’s cottage on the west side just a few miles north of the proposed gas storage site. It’s truly a sacred lake. I miss the cottage and lake so much (I sold it to pay for Mom’s dementia care.) Thank you, too, for posting news about the latest protests.

    • Martha, I know how much Seneca Lake means to you and your family. Thanks for your note and thanks for standing by our lake. With our help, the grandchildren of the people who now enjoy her beauty from your grandfather’s land will pass this beauty along to many generations. Wishing you and your good work well. Thanks for writing.

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