Pennsylvania

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Lancaster County pipeline protesters plead guilty to trespassing

Eight people in Lancaster County pleaded guilty to trespassing on the site of a proposed interstate gas pipeline.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

The demonstrators rejected a deal to have all the charges dropped against them, if they promised to stay off the property in the future.

Eight protesters who were arrested for opposing an interstate natural gas pipeline in Lancaster County pleaded guilty to trespassing Thursday and each paid a $100 fine.

The demonstrators were arrested January 5th after they linked arms and refused to leave a site where Oklahoma-based Williams was doing testing for its proposed Atlantic Sunrise pipeline. The protesters included members of the Northern Arawak Native American tribe who claim Williams was improperly drilling test bores on sacred grounds in Conestoga Township.

Chief Carlos Rivera of the North Arawak Tribal Nation is arrested protesting the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline in Conestoga, Pa.

Courtesy of Michelle Johnsen

Chief Carlos Rivera of the North Arawak Tribe was among those arrested January 5th.

The group, which calls itself the Conestoga 8, rejected a deal to have all charges dropped against them if they promised to stay off the property, which is owned by PPL.

They could have faced a maximum fine of $300 and 90 days in jail, but instead paid the smaller $100 fine and received no jail time in exchange for guilty pleas.

“In this case, we suggested to the judge that we’d accept reduced charges,” says PPL spokesman George Lewis. “In the future, if this group or another group came onto our property, we’d follow the recourse we had under the law to protect our rights.”

After their court appearance, the group traveled to Williams’ Lancaster offices. No one answered the door, but the protesters left a written statement opposing the pipeline along with a ShooFly pie– an iconic Lancaster County molasses dessert.

“We hope Williams has enjoyed their stay, but they’ve overstayed their welcome,” said protester Nick Martin. “It’s time for them to go, and this is our parting gift.”

“We understand and are sensitive to the concerns that have been expressed,” Williams spokesman Chris Stockton wrote in an email to StateImpact Pennsylvania. “Our goal is to ensure our survey and geotechnical bore work is conducted safely so that we can make informed routing decisions that avoid sensitive cultural resource impacts.”

The Atlantic Sunrise project is one of many large-scale pipeline projects in the works in Pennsylvania.  It’s designed to 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 liquefied natural gas export terminal on the Chesapeake Bay.

Williams began the pre-filing phase of the project with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) last year. The company has already agreed to re-route about a quarter of the line in Pennsylvania based on public feedback. Williams is expected to file its formal application with FERC within the next few months. If approved, it could be operational by mid-2017.

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