In an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 104 to 112 vote Tuesday afternoon, the legislature passed legislation requiring money in a $58 million special fund be distributed to eight school districts in Eastern North Carolina that are along the path of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project.
House Bill 90 drew praise from local education leaders in the pipeline’s corridor, including Peggy Wilkins Chavis, chair of the Board of Education at the Public Schools of Robeson County. Chavis told The Robesonian newspaper that she hoped that her school district would receive the funds. “That would be wonderful,” she said. “I hope and pray that goes through.”
The new law will distribute the money to local school systems with a two-step formula which considers the average daily membership (‘ADA”) of each school system and the length of the pipeline that runs through a school district.
The $58 million fund is considered controversial by some because it was secured from the very same energy companies that were ultimately awarded the contracts by the governor’s Department of Environmental Quality to build the pipeline. Existence of the fund became public the very same day a key permit was approved for their operations; in response, a complaint was filed the next day with the North Carolina Ethics Commission alleging potential conflicts of interest and questioning what appears to be the issuance of state permits in exchange for private funds.
“I’m 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,” commented Representative Szoka.