Tonawanda News

Columns

March 19, 2014

CONFER: State's foot-dragging aggravates our energy woes

(Continued)

Tonawanda News — So, it was a perfect storm.

Unconcerned with the big picture and out of tune with the science of economics (not to mention always on the hunt for an attention grabber), politicians and bureaucrats at all levels of government have been very quick to charge the industry with gouging. They want the masses to believe prices are high because the “evil oil companies” want to take advantage of their customers in a high-need winter.

It’s grandstanding at its finest and, in New York, it masks the blame that needs to be directed at the accusers themselves.

For 41/2 years now, state officials have been sitting on an application by Crestwood Midstream to repurpose abandoned salt mines in Reading for storage of liquefied propane and butane. The $50 million investment would allow the Finger Lakes storage facility to contain 88.2 million gallons of propane at once. The fuels would be constantly cycled in and out, to the tune of 96 semis and 48 railcars per every 24-hour period, 7 days a week. A facility of that scale would keep New York — and likely the whole northeast — well supplied.

Were it in operation now, industry officials say it would have inhibited the supply and pricing issues currently plaguing upstate New Yorkers. The savings to consumers for this winter alone would have surpassed $84 million. Looking ahead, the company has plans to increase total storage to 210 million gallons, affording New Yorkers price and supply certainty in perpetuity, capitalizing on the Marcellus Shale reserves and making for very affordable heating bills.

All of those plans are well and good, but they mean nothing if Crestwood Midstream isn’t allowed to forge ahead with them.

The Department of Environmental Conservation’s silence over the firm’s application has been deafening. The public comment period closed in November 2011, and here it is March 2014, with no word from state officials about the future of the approval process. Making matters even more confounding is that the state’s geologist approved the integrity of the abandoned salt mines well over a year ago.

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