Legislative committee wants Cooper, top aides to testify at oversight hearing

Legislative committee wants Cooper, top aides to testify at oversight hearing
Governor Roy Cooper responds to a question from WBTV's Chief Investigative Reporter Nick Ochsner about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline permit.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WBTV) – A legislative committee investigating the circumstances by which the administration of Governor Roy Cooper approved a key permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline last year has asked that Cooper appear before the committee to answer questions.

The request came in a letter from North Carolina Senator Harry Brown (R-Onslow) and Representative Dean Arp (R-Union), who co-chair the subcommittee of the Joint Legislative Commission on Government Operations that was formed to investigate the ACP matter.

In a bipartisan vote of the subcommittee’s members last December, lawmakers voted to hire an outside investigative firm to conduct the probe into whether approval of the key ACP permit was tied to a separate deal being negotiated between the solar industry and Duke Energy, a major investor in the pipeline.

A WBTV investigation has previously found a link between the pipeline permit and the solar deal, which Cooper and his staff have denied.

More recently, lawmakers have indicated their desire to have Cooper and staff testify before the subcommittee prior to a final report being issued detailing the investigation’s findings.

Previous: Documents reveal Cooper used ACP permit as leverage in deal between Duke and solar companies

Cooper and his staff have previously said they would not testify without first knowing what information investigators had uncovered.

In a letter sent last week by Brown and Arp and obtained by WBTV on Monday, it appeared lawmakers had reached some form of an agreement for officials from the Governor’s Office to testify.

“We appreciate your administration’s decision to answer questions related to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline matter. We will work with your office to identify the best date and time for a committee hearing during the week of November 4, 2019,” the letter to Cooper read.

“To that end, the independent investigators have informed us that they wish to hear from you, Ken Eudy, William McKinney, and Julia White,” the letter to Cooper said. “We hope that you and the requested staff are available during the oversight hearing, which we are holding because of your refusal to speak to or allow your staff to speak to the independent investigator sin the same confidential format used for all interviewees.”

Eudy, Cooper’s top adviser; McKinney, Cooper’s general counsel; and White, a deputy chief of staff in Cooper’s office, were all heavily involved in the negotiations surrounding the pipeline, documents released by Cooper’s office have shown.

The letter said the format will be similar to a standard deposition.

A specific date and time for the hearing had not been set, according to the letter.

A request for comment sent to the Governor’s Office early Monday afternoon was not immediately returned.

Pat Ryan, a spokesman for Senate Republican Leader Phil Berger declined to comment for this story, referring, instead, to the contents of the letter.

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