Legislative analysis raises many questions, few answers about proposed pipeline fund

Updated: Feb. 5, 2018 at 1:30 PM EST
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RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - The heads of three non-partisan legislative staffs at the North Carolina General Assembly sent a memo to legislative leadership Friday in response to questions about the $58 million mitigation fund proposed by Governor Roy Cooper related to the state's approval of key permits for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Cooper announced the creating of the fund in late January, as part of an effort by the owners of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline—which includes Duke Energy—to gain approval for the project in North Carolina.

A press release from Cooper's office announcing the creation of the fund said the money would "be used for environmental mitigation initiatives such as reducing the carbon footprint and expansion of renewable energy sources."

The governor's office said details on how the fund will operate will be forthcoming.

Document: Click here to read the MOU

The legislative memo sent Friday, obtained by WBTV, outlined questioned posed by staff that had yet to be answered by the governor's office, including whether there is any legal authority for the creation of such a fund.

"First, it does not appear that the MOU is a legally binding contract but is more in the nature of a statement of intent," the legislative memo said. "However, if the funds are ultimately transferred to an escrow account, we looked at whether the Governor has any authority to direct the use of the funds as suggested in the MOU."

Since Cooper announced the creation of the fund, questions have abounded over who would control the money.

According to the memo, a board of directors will oversee its operation through a designated administrator. There is no information in the memo detailing who would appoint the board of directors or the administrator.

Document: Click here to read the memo from legislative staff

"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 the issue," the memo said. "We also looked at whether the Governor has specific independent authority and again found that there was no law related to the issue, including no law that specifically prohibits it."

The memo outlined five questions posed to the governor's office but notes the response received from Cooper's staff did not answer the questions asked.

A spokeswoman for Cooper's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the points outlined by legislative staff.

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