Another Pipeline Controversy in North Carolina

In North Carolina there is an ongoing uproar over approval of a state water pollution permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, with words such as “pay-for-play” and “slush fund” being tossed about with reckless abandon.

Here’s what happened:  for months in 2017 and early 2018, the pipeline developers met and negotiated with Governor Roy Cooper about a voluntary $57.8 million fund to boost economic development and renewable energy projects in the eight counties along the 160-mile route through eastern North Carolina.

The Governor would lay out the rules for economic development, environmental mitigation, and renewable energy grants from the fund.  He has said that intends to appoint a board to oversee the grants although he has not yet done that.  The agreement provides that the money would be deposited in a bank of the Governor’s choosing, not the State treasury.

The final announcement that the Memorandum of Agreement setting up this fund had been finalized came just minutes after the announcement that the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality had approved a crucial water permit for the pipeline.

Many found this coincidence a bit too tidy.  The General Assembly has held hearings on the fund and hired a private investigator to delve into whether there was any quid-pro-quo between the fund and the administration’s decision to permit the pipeline.

The Governor says this is all politics; he is a Democrat while the Legislature is led by Republicans.

Investigators, concerned citizens, and the press have spent much of 2018 trying to get all the documents relevant to the negotiations that resulted in the creation of this fund.  Finally, in mid-December, the Governor’s office released 19,000 pages of documents.  People are now plowing through those documents, hoping to find information which will reveal whether the permit approval, the fund, etc. were all on the up and up.

Form the West Virginia perspective, we are, of course, shocked, shocked that politics and even the possibly of corruption could ever intrude into the permitting process.