New London State Pier deal, finally
It was welcomed news Friday that New London Mayor Michael Passero had reached a Host Community Agreement deal that he is satisfied will adequately compensate New London for the massive development planned for its port.
For months, the mayor has been pushing to assure greater compensation to his city, pointing to the revenue losses because this project will be taking place at a state-owned facility, exempt from property taxation. We had long thought the involvement of Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration would play the key role in ending the impasse. Instead, the governor was largely an observer.
North East Offshore, the Ørsted-Eversource partnership which plans to utilize State Pier in support of offshore wind-power development, agreed to boost payments to the city under the host agreement. At the same time the region’s legislative delegation is working to increase PILOT funds — payments in lieu of taxes — provided to municipalities for untaxable properties.
The Passero administration estimates the agreements now in place, plus existing PILOT payments, would bring in about $1.2 million annually. That number could double if North East Offshore expands its offshore wind power portfolio and state payments increase.
Not a bad deal, considering New London now only gets $125,000 in state PILOT funding for the pier property.
Passero agreed to withdraw the city’s complaint that the failure of the project to align with the Master Development Plan for the area should disqualify it for the necessary state environmental permits. Instead, New London will work with the state to address the MDP issue.
“I am a cheerleader for the project,” Passero declared.
Despite the many problems and malfeasances of the Connecticut Port Authority, and though Eversource will never win any popularity contests with its monopolistic arrogance, this project is an important one. The $157 million public-private deal (the price tag may well go higher) will create hundreds of jobs and give a boost to the local economy. It will broaden the region’s energy portfolio and do so in a climate-friendly way.
When the offshore wind projects are completed in 10 to 20 years, the port will be left with heavy-lift infrastructure that should expand its uses. And though private investment is paying for nearly half the development, the finished product will remain in state hands.
This project has many regulatory hurdles still to go and operations are not expected to start until 2023, but the agreement Friday may have removed the greatest potential obstacle.
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