Raleigh, N.C. – The North Carolina House of Representatives sent legislation to Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday requiring the $58 million fund he negotiated with energy companies building the Atlantic Coast Pipeline – announced the same day his Department of Environmental Quality approved a key permit for its operations – be distributed to school systems in eastern North Carolina along the path of the project.
House Bill 90 NC Truth in Education was approved by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 104-12 by the state House of Representatives.
The legislation drew praise from local education leaders in the pipeline’s corridor, including the chair of the Public Schools of Robeson County Board of Education, Peggy Wilkins Chavis.
Chavis told the Robesonian last week she hopes her school district receives the funds. “That would be wonderful,” she said. “I hope and pray that goes through.”
The legislation distributes the controversial $58 million fund to local school systems with a two-step calculation that considers the average daily membership of each school system and the pipeline mileage impacting its district.
“This legislation simply reaffirms the powers granted to the state General Assembly in our North Carolina Constitution,” said House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland).
“Any money received or spent in this state is subject to approval from the legislature. The ambiguous circumstances in which this money was accepted certainly raises questions. We are directing this money go to local school districts impacted by construction of the pipeline.”
State and federal law already require environmental mitigation of the pipeline’s construction separate from the $58 million fund negotiated by Gov. Cooper.
Lawmakers representing school systems slated to receive the funds supported the legislation on Tuesday:
“The state Supreme Court has previously ruled that similar funds belong in education coffers,” said state Rep. John Szoka (R-Cumberland).
“I am pleased that classroom teachers and students in Cumberland County will benefit from the $58 million contribution to North Carolina by companies constructing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”
Rep. Brenden Jones (R-Columbus, Bladen, Robeson), the House Majority Freshman Whip, also released a statement:
“These funds belong in our classrooms and that’s why the state House took action today to direct more than $7 million to the Public Schools of Robeson County,” Jones said Tuesday. “I am delighted this money will benefit educators and students in eastern North Carolina.”
According to the Washington Post, Cooper also hired a former lobbyist who worked on the project in other states, Mr. Lee Lilley, as his new legislative lobbyist just days after the deal and $58 million fund were announced.
Funds Allocated to School Systems
- Cumberland – $15,115,607
- Halifax – $1,920,839
- Roanoke Rapids – $2,157,148
- Weldon City – $642,996
- Johnston – $11,998,658
- Nash – $7,547,838
- Northampton – $3,574,629
- Robeson – $7,544,754
- Sampson – $2,416,321
- Clinton City – $875,403
- Wilson – $4,005,807