Energy. Environment. Economy.

Landowners complain congressional staffer pressured them about pipeline

Joe Pitts, Diane Black

AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke

A staffer for Congressman Joe Pitts (R- Lancaster Co.) reportedly called and emailed residents who oppose an interstate gas pipeline.

Lancaster Newpapers (LNP) reports a staffer for Congressman Joe Pitts (R- Lancaster Co.) is defending himself over emails and phone calls he made to residents who live along the route of a proposed interstate gas transmission line.

According to LNP, after Pitts was re-elected to a 10th term in November his aide Tom Tillet contacted at least five opponents of the proposed Atlantic Sunrise pipeline and told them they should allow the pipeline company, Williams, to survey their property.

Read the full story from LNP:

He smugly reminded them that a majority of their fellow residents voted for Pitts.

The calls and e-mails to anti-pipeline residents have angered some and led to accusations that Tillett is lobbying on behalf of the pipeline company.

Both Tillett and Pitts strongly deny that allegation. They say all contacts to residents were in response to their concerns they had first brought to Pitts’ office.

But the bluntness and sometimes combative tone of the exchanges raise questions for some about the role of Pitts’ office in what has become one of the most strident environmental projects ever in Lancaster County.

“The fact that Tom Tillett is delivering messages from Williams is what disturbs me. I believe Tillett is making calls on behalf of Williams,” said one pipeline opponent in West Hempfield  Township after receiving an e-mail from Tillett.

But, provided copies of the e-mails and asked if he felt his staffer had acted inappropriately in any way, Pitts defended his staffer.

The Atlantic Sunrise project is one of many large-scale pipeline projects in the works in Pennsylvania. At least one federal regulator has said the amount of opposition in Lancaster County to this pipeline is unprecedented in her 24 years.

If approved, the pipeline would move Marcellus Shale gas from Susquehanna County as far south as Alabama. It would cut through 10 central Pennsylvania counties and carry the gas to markets along the eastern seaboard, including the Cove Point export terminal along the Chesapeake Bay.


  • JimBarth

    Based on the presentation in this article, there is no way to avoid the conclusion that Tillet was doing the work of the pipeline company. It seems that Congressman Pitts is aptly named. What a piece of work representatives like that are.

  • David Jones

    Tillett works for Pitts, Pitts works on the Energy&Commerce Committee that oversees the Federal Energy Regulator Committee (FERC). FERC approves interstate pipelines. Pitts takes financial “contributions” from the Williams Partners who applied to FERC for this interstate pipeline. Not to mention the other 52% of the E&C Committee have taken financial “contributions” from Williams Partners as well. What an unbelievably corrupt conflict of interest! This has political greed written all over it!

  • Kimberly Cummings Kann

    There is a large and powerful resistance growing around the issues of citizens rights and political corruption. It is hard to believe that anyone in the history of this nation has fought to allow a corporation to forcibly seize private property for corporate profit. The communities in the path of this proposed project face having great harm forced on them with no benefit.

    • Steve Todd

      I don’t see either large or powerful resistance. That is our problem. I see localized spontaneous opposition to actions individually stumbling upon the #1 threat to our democratic republic, whose members rarely stick with campaign finance after resolution.

      • Tony M

        Campaign finance? Until there is a viable 3rd party I won’t contribute a dollar of my hard earned money to support the corporate greed that both current parties enable. It’s not a right vs left issue, in my opinion. I would need to see, at the very least, a couple major changes happen.

        1. Term limits.
        2. Regulations on political contributions.
        3. Benefits for politicians should be no different than the average worker in this country.

        Until those 3 changes take place, the corruption will continue and I won’t take any part in supporting it.

        • Steve Todd

          There will be no much needed 3rd, 4th or 5th parties allowed until we cut off the blood flow to the corruption. Even if there is another party allowed, it will not be allowed unless fully compromised first. I fully support term limits and a host of other reforms to allow representation of the people. But none are possible with for-profit financing of our public servants.

        • Gary Schreckengost

          Total utter cop-out. Get involved in one of the two local major parties. I ran as a DEM, got 29%, and did not receive any corporate contributions. My opponent, however, did. Either get involved or stay out and stay home. For people to chant about a perfect party system is such a cop-out…esp. when we only have a 30% voter turn-out.

          • Tony M

            Total cop-out? I voted. I was part of that 30% so I can voice my opinion just like you did. With an attitude like yours I’m not surprised you lost. Here’s a little thought to take home. Your party is just as corrupt as the GOP. Happy New Years.

          • Gary Schreckengost

            Cop-out….and it’s all based on party loyalty. My attitude is just fine. See you on the back side.

          • Tony M

            Wow. Little do you know I’ve attended multiple pipeline meetings-at the Martic township supervisors meetings, mt. Nebo church, millersville university. Is that enough for you? And you are damn right I’m not loyal to your party or any party at the moment. It’s people like you that help me make that decision.

  • JimBarth

    Here is a link to the PA DEP press release page that announces an $800,000 fine against the Tennessee Gas Pipeline company. Again, here it is December of 2014, and the agreement is being signed for serious violations that Tennessee committed in 2011 and 2012. Too little, too late, but, better than nothing? Imagine if TGP was a drilling company that went belly up during that 2 to 3 year period. Where would the remediation money come from?

    “According to the agreement, TGP will pay a penalty of $210,000 and will fund a $540,000 clean-up program of illegal dumpsites in Pike, Potter, Susquehanna and Wayne Counties. The fund will be administered by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council over a four year period. TGP has also agreed to pay cost recovery monies to four Conservation Districts and the Department in the amount of $50,002.”

  • Tom Joad

    Congressman Joseph Pitts was duly elected by a majority of voters in his district. He will do what is best for himself and those wealthy donors that contributed to his campaign.

    • Gary Schreckengost

      Yes, because he was re-elected again. You get what you vote for. Why people vote for corporate land seizure, however, I know not.

  • Luke Bunting

    The Atlantic Sunrise Transmission pipeline will be shipping the gas to Japan and India via the Cove Point export station By selling the surplus overseas Williams claims it will decrease the current surplus to bring (low) domestic prices more in line with the global market. Basically raising fuel prices in America. Not much public good being served there.

  • Jill Hoffman

    I would like to smugly remind him that MY fellow residents DID NOT vote him in he can thank the people in towards Chester county. So convienient to have the lines redrawn to get him the win!

    • Gary Schreckengost

      Actually, Houghton won Chester…he got POUNDED in Lancaster County…the home of GOP lemmings.

    • Jill Hoffman

      I wrote a response..but deleted it. You are not worth my time Mr. Schreckengost.

      • Tony M

        I should have done the same. What a joke this guy is, I’m just thankfully he isn’t an elected official with that kind of explosive personality.

  • Julieann Wozniak

    Typical. We are the fifth most corrupt state for a good reason. These citizens need to lawyer up and see what crops up during discovery.

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