It's been a year, but we finally are getting some insight into how a natural gas pipeline project won approval from Gov. Roy Cooper's administration. Not only was there a $57.8 million slush fund attached to it, but now it looks like Cooper's office required something else...
Documents released by the Cooper Administration last month show senior staff delayed signing off on a key permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline until Duke Energy, one of the pipeline’s major investors, reached a separate deal with solar companies that would, essentially, result in the utility giant purchasing more solar power.
The decision by Cooper and senior staff to use the pipeline permit as leverage to force Duke into cutting a deal with the state’s solar industry is documented in text messages, emails and memos included in a 19,216-page document dump released by the administration days before Christmas.
According to the report, Gov. Cooper and his staff have denied any connection between the pipeline approval and the solar industry negotiations.
But that's apparently not true.
A text message from Cooper’s General Counsel, Will McKinney, to two members of his staff on January 1, 2018, shows the pipeline MOU was scheduled to be signed the following day, on January 2, 2018.
But early on the morning of January 2, 2018, McKinney and Cooper’s Senior Adviser, Ken Eudy, exchanged texts regarding the status of the solar negotiations and whether Cooper should sign the pipeline MOU.
“Not sure we should sign ACP agreement unless solar deal works,” Eudy texted McKinney at 7:18 a.m. on January 2.
“Ok. Don’t disagree,” McKinney responded in part.
Ultimately, the pipeline MOU would be signed on January 25 and announced the following day.
The new agreement between Duke Energy and the solar companies was announced the following Monday, January 29.
Even so, the Governor's spokesman denies there's any connection between the two issues - saying this text message exchange was simply about messaging.
I guess that's the same reason the slush fund was rolled into the pipeline permit approval, too. Messaging. Right?
After all, a lot of leftist groups are mad over the pipeline project. Being able to announce a big, fat environmental fund AND a solar power purchase mandate would definitely help sell this thing to Cooper's base.
I'm not sure we disagree here.
The General Assembly launched a probe into the deal, hiring a private investigator and threatening subpoenas.
Pete's Prep Sheet: Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019
- From the Carolina Journal: "UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt will leave her job at the end of the academic year, and Silent Sam’s pedestal is going with her, she announced to the UNC Board of Governors in an emergency closed session meeting Jan. 14."
- The new sheriff in Wake County is making moves, according to this WRAL report: "Two deputies who reported inappropriate comments by a supervisor during "sensitivity training" sessions two years ago have been fired by new Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker, who also promoted the supervisor who made the comments."
- The Citizen-Times has details on a proposed affordable housing project: "A nonprofit community development group plans to ask Buncombe County commissioners Tuesday for $2.2 million to help complete a 95-unit affordable apartment complex in the eastern part of the county."
- The owner of the Asheville Mall is reviewing its security policies in the wake of an assault caught on video - showing an adult man punching a 12-year old girl who was part of a group of teens fighting.
- Meanwhile, the Asheville Planning and Zoning Commission approved a proposal to turn the Sears property at the mall into a mixed-use residential and retail development. Here's the report from WLOS.