Pennsylvania

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.

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