RALEIGH – It appears the Atlantic Coast Pipeline deal included a nearly $60 million slush fund to be directly controlled by Gov. Roy Cooper. While Cooper sure liked to lambaste Republicans for their ‘corporate cash giveaways’ and the majority’s prioritization of Big Business interests on the campaign trail in 2016, it seems he is all about circumventing the legislature to have tens of millions of corporate cash at his disposal.
“The agreement was laid out in a Mitigation Project Memorandum of Understanding between the four utilities that will build and operate the $5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Cooper. In it, the ACP agrees to pay $57.8 million to an escrow account controlled by the governor. The money is supposed to cover costs of environmental harms caused by the pipeline, economic development projects, and renewable energy facilities in the eight N.C. counties the pipeline would cross.
Carolina Journal and other media outlets have raised questions about the structure of the agreement, which falls outside the normal budgetary process and has not been approved by the General Assembly.”
Cooper whines, usually to sympathetic activist judges, that the General Assembly is taking away his powers and then turns around to make slush fund deals with out any input or oversight from the representative branch of government?
The governor has said this was a ‘voluntary contribution’ when asked about the funds by Mark Trogdon, director of the legislature’s Fiscal Research Division. Trogdon said the reply was ‘not responsive’ and urged the Cooper administration to explain the slush fund in detail to legislators.
In a note to the General Assembly, the Fiscal Research staff said they found no legal precedent for such an arrangement:
“We asked attorneys handling environmental law, economic development, and energy policy to look into whether there was authority under state or federal law for this type of arrangement, and they found no law specifically addressing this issue. We also looked at whether the governor has specific independent authority and again found that there was no law related to this issue, including no law that specifically prohibits it. Absent additional details regarding where the money is and how it will be handled, we cannot give a further legal opinion.”
In asking Cooper several questions – Who owns the funds? Will they be deposited into the State Treasury? What legal authority do you have? – his office demurred, merely stating that it hasn’t been set up yet and a board of directors would be named to administer it.
Fiscal Research staff were not satisfied, and neither should the General Assembly be.
The Environmentalist Whackos, already incensed that the pipeline permit was granted in the first place, are now even more concerned about the ethics of such a slush fund.
It appears as if the ACP bought the permit for the price of a $60 million slush fund, that will most definitely go to projects that further Cooper’s policy agenda, and even his political aims.
‘Corporate Cooper’ should not be able to leverage his powers for millions in slush funds to direct toward his pet causes. The legislature should take him to task for such a brazen act.
Read more from the Carolina Journal here.