North Carolina Governor Accused of ‘Pay-for-Permit’ Scheme
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper improperly used his office to secure $57.8 million for a fund under his control in return for granting construction permits along the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a report requested by the state legislature concludes.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper improperly used his office to secure $57.8 million for a fund under his control in return for granting construction permits along the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), a report requested by the state legislature concludes.
Although Cooper did not personally benefit from the fund, the scheme had the appearance of a “pay-to-play” or “pay-for-permit” arrangement in which the Cooper administration approved a permit for the pipeline in 2018, the report states.
“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,” the conclusion of the report by Eagle Intel Services states. “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.”
‘It Undermines Trust’
Republicans in the general assembly began questioning the Cooper administration about the permits two years ago, after pipeline companies announced they would provide the $57.8 million for a fund under the governor’s control to be used for environmental mitigation, economic development, and renewable energy development in areas affected by the pipeline, says North Carolina state Rep. Dean Arp (R-Union).
“Permits should be issued based upon objective facts,” Arp told Environment & Climate News. “The obvious problem here is anyone else seeking a permit will be held to some unknown payment they are going to have to set up.
“Well, you can’t get any riper for abuse and corruption than that, and this is what we’re concerned about because it creates the appearance, if nothing else, of a totally corrupt system and it undermines trust in the permitting process for the public good,” Arp said. “We are the legislative oversight committee, and that is why we introduced this investigation process to find out what was going on, and the governor really resisted it.”
Criminal Probe Coming?
Cooper refused to allow investigators to talk to senior government officials or the Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, which is unacceptable, says Arp.
“We are not a criminal investigative body; we are a legislative oversight body, so what I think should happen next is the proper investigative body, not the legislature—people who have subpoena power—should conduct their investigations and see if any contract violations or other questionable things occurred,” Arp said. “To my surprise, the media has really been calling for the next phase of the investigation to take place and have someone conduct it that can get answers to the questions that aren’t being answered.”
Kenneth Artz (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes from Dallas, Texas.
Eagle Intel Services, LLC, North Carolina Atlantic Coast Pipeline Investigation: Summary of Relevant Information and Conclusion, November 2019: https://www.heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/north-carolina-atlantic-coast-pipeline-investigation-summary-of-relevant-information-and-conclusion
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper: https://governor.nc.gov/; https://governor.nc.gov/contact/contact-governor-cooper