Pipeline protesters face large fines over use of Lancaster County barn

  • Marie Cusick
Pipeline protesters face stiff fines for camping in a Lancaster County cornfield and using a former tobacco barn for meetings.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Pipeline protesters face stiff fines for camping in a Lancaster County cornfield and using a former tobacco barn for meetings.

Opponents of the Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline say they’re being threatened and harassed by a Lancaster County municipality for allegedly misusing a barn as part of a protest encampment.

Condemnation notices placed on the Conestoga Township barn Monday cite zoning and building codes, which prohibit the farm from being used as an encampment and the use of the barn for non-agricultural purposes. The municipality is threatening fines of $1,000 per-day against the property owners, who have allowed dozens of protesters to pitch tents in a cornfield.

The barn has become something of a base of operations for the camp, where the activists hold meetings and training sessions on nonviolent direct action.

“This is clearly not about a genuine concern for the use of the barn,” says Tim Spiese of the group, Lancaster Against Pipeline. “This appears to be an attempt to silence us and inhibit our ability to protest the pipeline.”

Zoning officer Joellyn Warren says news reports brought the issue to her attention.

“They’ve made it public they’re doing training and events in a portion of the barn,” she says. “The barn is classified as a agricultural use. It’s not a structural violation–it’s use and occupancy. We’re just trying to be uniform and equitable.”

The encampment emerged last month, shortly after federal regulators approved $3 billion pipeline. Once built, it will move natural gas southward through 10 Pennsylvania counties.

John Telesco of Lancaster Against Pipelines calls the zoning and code enforcement arbitrary and random.

“Somebody’s out to get us, we don’t know who” he says. “I can’t imagine the township would do this of their own accord. We are there specifically to protect a farm.”

Lancaster Against Pipelines is calling on its members to attend Conestoga Township’s regular public meeting at 7pm Tuesday evening to speak out. In 2015 a retired schoolteacher who opposes the pipeline was convicted of disorderly conduct after she spoke out of turn at one of township’s public meetings. The conviction was later thrown out by a judge.

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