The $57.8 million discretionary fund the Atlantic Coast Pipeline operators planned to pay to an escrow Gov. Roy Cooper would control was in fact negotiated between the pipeline’s operators and a series of private parties. It remains unclear whether Cooper’s involvement was legal.

In his weekly syndicated column (link to text here), Tom Campbell, host of the UNC-TV public-affairs program “NC SPIN,” said the agreement was worked out in July 2017 at the offices of the North Carolina Farm Bureau and, presumably, presented to Cooper later. Cooper’s attorney signed the agreement on the governor’s behalf, but it did not receive legislative approval.

The money was intended to pay for any environmental and other costs associated with building “spurs,” or hookups, connecting the main pipeline to communities along its path.

Campbell noted the unusual timing by Cooper’s administration, whose Department of Environmental Quality announced the pipeline’s approval minutes before Cooper released a memo outlining the $57.8 million fund. Even so, Campbell’s sources said, the agreement was indeed voluntary, and not connected to approval of the main pipeline.

Carolina Journal has learned Campbell will discuss the issue on this week’s episode of “NC SPIN,” airing Friday at 7:30 p.m. on UNC-TV.

Because the General Assembly was not included in the process of receiving or disbursing the money, though, it remains unclear whether this arrangement satisfies the state constitution’s mandate that money handled by state agencies must get some sort of legislative approval.

This is a developing story. Check back with Carolina Journal for updates.