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Finger Lakes winemakers fight gas storage plan

Winemakers in the US Finger Lakes AVA have warned the proposed expansion of an underground gas storage facility will threaten their vineyards' rising reputation.

Energy group Crestwood Midstream Partners has applied to expand its subterranean liquid petroleum gas storage facility in salt mine caverns near Seneca Lake.

An alliance of winemakers this week held a press conference to express ‘grave concerns’ about the environmental risks of the proposal.

Fifty-nine wineries, including many of the Finger Lakes’ most established estates, have called on New York state governor Andrew Cuomo to reject the plan, which is currently being analysed by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

The proposal comes as Finger Lakes wines have been increasing their international profile.

‘Even if there was a one in a million chance of an accident, the risk would still be too high,’ said Doug Hazlitt, co-owner of Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards. ‘We cannot simply pull up our vines and move elsewhere. It has taken generations to produce the quality of wine that is coming out of the Finger Lakes region.’

Earlier this year, respected California winemaker Paul Hobbs told Decanter.com that he believed Finger Lakes Riesling could one day rival that from Germany’s Mosel Valley.

‘The finger lakes is wine country, not gas country,’ said Will Ouweleen, co-owner of O-Neh-Da and Eagle Crest Vineyards. ‘The two are not compatible ideas.’

Ouweleen told Decanter.com that he believed more of the region’s 120 wineries would sign up if they studied the planning documents. ‘It takes time away from the vineyard and cellar, which is difficult this time of year for many,’ he said.

New York state Department of Environmental Conservation could not be immediately reached for comment. But, a DEC spokesperson told local media that an environmental impact report on the gas storage proposal remains pending.

Crestwood Midstream has said that caverns created by salt mining at Seneca Lake, near Watkins Glen, create ideal spaces for gas storage. The company could not be immediately reached for comment, but said previously that the caverns are far below ground and gas already stored there has caused no safety issues. 

Written by Chris Mercer

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