by Anna Manning
Carolina Journal‘s Don Carrington reports:
As the Cooper administration engaged in negotiations involving the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a national governors’ group warned a Cooper adviser against a state agency taking action comparable to extortion.
The warning came in a Dec. 8, 2017, email from a National Governors Association staffer to Cooper energy policy adviser Jeremy Tarr. The email came to light as part of the Cooper administration’s recent release of thousands of documents related to the ACP negotiations.
The word “extort” surfaced in a discussion of potential payments a state government could negotiate with a company pursuing state permits.
“A company could volunteer to make a ‘stipulation agreement,’ but it wouldn’t be appropriate for a commission to require such a thing in a determination of public need and benefit,” wrote Sue Gander, NGA’s division director for environment, energy, and transportation. “A commission, it seems, ought to keep to ‘prudently incurred costs’ for essential utility services. To ‘extort’ (not my word) payments for ‘anything not directly related to the cost of providing utility service’ would raise ‘due process’ and ‘ethical’ concerns.”
In specifying a “commission,” Gander was referring to a public utilities commission. She did not indicate whether an agreement reached between a state and company would raise similar “due process” or “ethical” concerns if negotiated by another government agency.
Gander’s email followed a phone inquiry from Tarr, Cooper spokeswoman Noelle Talley told Carolina Journal. Documents indicate Tarr was doing research at the request of Cooper adviser Ken Eudy. Eudy negotiated a controversial $57.8 million Atlantic Coast Pipeline fund unveiled a little more than a month after Gander offered her email advice. That fund generated a dispute between the governor and legislative leaders.
The 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline involving Dominion Power and Duke Energy will go through West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. Cooper’s Department of Environmental Quality issued an important environmental permit on Jan. 26, 2018. The previous day, Cooper’s office and the ACP partners signed an agreement requiring the ACP partners pay the $57.8 million to a fund Cooper would control.
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