This past month, I announced that Cumberland County Schools could receive over $15 million dollars in additional state funding under a bill he helped craft that shifts nearly $58 million received by Gov. Roy Cooper away from what some are referring to as the governor’s personal ‘slush fund’ and instead toward local school districts directly in the corridor of the future Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Schools will receive the funds if the governor signs the bill or allows it to become law.
House Bill 90 ensures that students and families impacted by the placement of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline receive the benefit of Cooper’s special fund. The bill directs the money to school systems in the eight eastern North Carolina counties that are directly in the path of construction, including County Name, partly on the basis of the number of students in each district and partly on the miles of pipeline going through the district.
Within hours of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality issuing a major permit to advance the pipeline in late January, Gov. Cooper announced he obtained $57.8 million from the energy companies building the pipeline to stash in a pot of money he would have unfettered control over for “environmental mitigation” and other projects. This exchange, which was described as a “voluntary contribution” by Cooper’s PR team, has raised a number of ethical and constitutional concerns across the political spectrum – especially since state and federal law already requires utilities building the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to meet environmental mitigation requirements before the project can receive approval.