Warned That Crestwood Plan Threatens Booming NY Wine Industry

Hector, NY – Nearly 20 Finger Lakes wineries, vineyards and breweries hosted a tasting today in celebration of National Drink Wine Day at the new Forge Cellars, offering samples of their locally produced wine and food. National Drink Wine Day occurs every year on February 18th to celebrate and remind us of the benefits of wine. New York in particular has greatly benefited from the wine industry. There are over 1,600 family vineyards and over 400 wineries in New York, generating more than $4.8 billion in economic benefits.  In the Finger Lakes, the agri-tourism industry generates $2.9 billion and supports 58,000 jobs. Recently, Governor Cuomo announced investments to promote the independent, growing Finger Lakes wine and tourist economy as part of the proposed FY 2018 Executive Budget.

Photo by Dan Rapaport

On the first day of what will be another booming Seneca Lake Wine Trail event, in an energy efficient , newly constructed facility, participating wineries gathered not only to celebrate their successes but to warn that turning Finger Lakes Wine Country into a gas storage and transport hub for the Northeast could quickly destroy their businesses.   The vineyards and breweries participating included 2016 Governor’s Cup Winner-Billsboro Winery, Heavily Brewing Company, Damiani Wine Cellars, Rasta Ranch, Leidenfrost Vineyards, Barry Family Cellars, Seneca Shore Wine Cellars, Pompous Ass Winery, Three Brothers Winery, Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, Sawmill Creek Vineyards, Hector Wine Company, Forge Cellars, Hunt Country Vineyards, Barnstormer Winery, O-Neh-Da and Eagle Crest Vineyards, Fox Run Vineyards, Sheldrake Point Winery.

The regional wineries and vineyard owners discussed the dangers of the pending proposal from Texas-based Crestwood to store dangerous, explosive liquid petroleum gas in salt caverns beneath the shores of Seneca Lake. The plan will deface the unique character of the Finger Lakes region, and create serious safety and health risks.

“Crestwood is a bad neighbor from Texas with a record of EPA safety violations and DEC discharge violations and fines. Hazlitt’s is a local, family run business with good ethics and a love for our surrounding community. We support each other in this industry, but Crestwood doesn’t play well with others, and would jeopardize what we have spent generations building” said Doug Hazlitt, co-owner of Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards.

Industrial gas storage in the Finger Lakes has garnered wide-spread opposition, as the community bears all of the risks, and receives none of the reward. If passed, the project would damage the thriving tourist industry, which is the driving economic engine for the region.

“If Crestwood’s proposal were approved, many of Seneca Lake’s defining characteristics –  the agriculture, the beautiful landscape, the tourism, and the expanding food, wine and craft beverage industries – could vanish,” said Vinny Aliperti, co-owner of Billsboro Winery, winner of the 2016 Governor’s Cup.

“Crestwood’s proposal would generate merely three to five permanent jobs in the region. This is fewer than what Seneca Shore Winery created in the past 5 years, and pales in comparison to the tens of thousands who rely on the wine and tourism industries here. Gas storage does not belong in Finger Lakes Wine Country, especially in a location that NYSEG years ago decided was unsuitable. We have too much to lose and nothing to gain,” said David DeMarco, owner of Seneca Shore Wine Cellars.

There are currently 32 municipalities, including the cities of Rochester, Syracuse, Ithaca, the Town of Skaneateles, the Village of Watkins Glen, and many more who have drafted resolutions opposing gas storage in the Finger Lakes. This opposition represents over 1.2 Million New York residents. Over 500 regional businesses on coalitions oppose the ill-conceived plan.

“On this National Drink Wine Day, we celebrate the products from our local, small businesses. These wineries, vineyards and breweries are the backbone of our economy. We are confident that Governor Cuomo will stand with the Finger Lakes wine and tourism industry and say no to Crestwood’s plan,” said Joseph Campbell, President of Gas Free Seneca.