by Joseph Coletti
Senior Fellow, Fiscal Studies, John Locke Foundation
The $57.8 million payment agreed between Gov. Cooper and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline partners remains in limbo and a new investigative committee will “probe Cooper’s involvement with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline,” Dan Way writes for Carolina Journal.
From committee debate, it appears nobody knows, or will say, whether the pipeline partners have paid or will pay the $57.8 million to the state.
Cooper claims the money was a voluntary pledge to repair environmental damage from pipeline construction, and the General Assembly jeopardized the deal by passing a law taking control over it. Republicans say it is a settlement fund, and could have been a pressure play by Cooper.
Outgoing Sen. Tommy Tucker pondered whether the General Assembly would need to sue Gov. Cooper over the money as he has sued the legislature over control of a $92 million federal EPA settlement with Volkswagen.
The ACP payment was outlined as a private payment held in an escrow account outside the state treasury designated by the governor, with a first payment “immediately following the issuance by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission of a Final Notice to Proceed for the ACP.” That came on July 25, but there is no indication of payment. The governor’s office complained, “After raiding the fund, the legislature has done nothing to acquire the funds that they have promised to school districts.”
No wonder there are so many lawsuits over separation of powers.
Whether the payment is voluntary, as the governor claims, or a settlement fund, as the legislature claims, the General Assembly has no role in acquiring funds. Maybe the investigative committee will help spur ACP to pay the money, the Attorney General or Department of Revenue to collect the money, or ACP to follow Gov. Cooper’s lead and renounce the payment now slated for local schools.