by Brenée Goforth
Media Manager & Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
The results of an investigation into Gov. Cooper’s involvement with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) were presented last week. The report concluded:
“From the information presented in this report, it would be reasonable to conclude that Governor Cooper improperly used the authority and influence of his Office to cause the ACP partnership to commit to a $55 million “Mitigation Fund” that the Governor placed under his complete control. Governor Cooper continued to use his authority and influence to delay the ACP permitting process until the ACP partners agreed to increase the fund amount to $57.8 million.”
Before this report was released, on Tuesday, November 12, JLF’s Don van der Vaart went on the Pat McCrory Show with Bo Thompson on WBT in Charlotte to discuss the issue. McCrory asked van der Vaart about the situation:
McCrory: Can you tell us what happened in Raleigh?
Van der Vaart: On the one hand, Duke wanted this very important permit for their pipeline. On the other hand, Gov. Cooper wanted this 57-million-dollar slush fund and this solar deal – which essentially undid some consumer protections that the legislature had built in, making solar more cost-competitive. Well, that deal undid part of that.
Dr. van der Vaart goes on:
Apparently, there was no basis in terms of “why 57, why not 80, why not 20?” It was meant to mitigate environmental damage, but the environmental folks were not asked how much they would need, and it was meant for economic development. But it doesn’t seem there was any calculation. It seems that that was pure horse-trading.
…It certainly makes it sound like it was just sort of a pay to play kind of thing. We are not aware of any other situation where a large environmental project like this was forced to pay some sort of fund – as you said – it was an escrow that was going to be controlled by the governor himself.
Of course, the reporting that has come out since supports these suspicions.