From a natural gas pipeline to offshore drilling, energy issues are a top concern for North Carolina’s elected officials in early 2018.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been a contentious issue since the proposal to extend it through North Carolina was announced. Environmentalists attacked it as being harmful to the environment, while business groups and unions supported the pipeline for its job-creating potential. North Carolina regulators recently approved permits allowing pipeline construction can begin, but this move spurred further controversy in the Tar Heel State.
On the same day state regulators approved permits for the pipeline, Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, announced that the companies behind the pipeline were setting up a $57.8 million fund for the state to use for environmental and renewable energy projects. Republican legislators charged that this was a “slush fund” given in exchange for state approval, something the governor denied. The legislators then passed a bill, later signed by Gov. Cooper, re-directing the money put in this fund to be used for schools along the pipeline’s path.
Legislators are continuing to raise issues about whether Gov. Cooper acted properly. They note that he owns property along the path of the pipeline, although the governor has said he would not profit directly from any state funds related to building it. The chairman of the Senate Rules Committee is calling for an investigation into the governor’s role in setting up the $58 million fund. Regulators deny that their decision to approve the pipeline was linked to the agreement brokered by the governor to establish the fund.
While Gov. Cooper supports moving ahead with a natural gas pipeline through the state, he is fighting efforts to allow oil and natural gas production off of North Carolina’s coast. Earlier this year, the Trump Administration revealed an offshore energy plan that would permit oil and gas exploration in North Carolina’s coastal waters. Attorney General Josh Stein as well as some local and state lawmakers also oppose this plan.
The final decision on offshore drilling rests with the federal government. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has already exempted Florida from the areas where offshore drilling would be allowed. If the final federal plan includes North Carolina, Gov. Cooper has vowed to sue to stop it.
Do you think energy companies gave Gov. Cooper a “slush fund” in return for the state approving the Atlantic Coast Pipeline? Do you support offshore oil and natural gas production off of North Carolina’s coast?