Malloy leaves New London twisting in the wind
Gov. Dannel Malloy, always ready to reach into his trusty bonding bag of tricks, managed to pull out $15 million worth of goodies for Deepwater Wind, the rich hedge-fund controlled company to which the state has granted permission to sell its expensive wind power to Connecticut ratepayers.
Before even making Deepwater the winning bidder for the state's commitment to buy offshore wind, Malloy announced he would provide $15 million in borrowed state bond money for improvements to State Pier in New London, to make it more appropriate for Deepwater to use as a staging area in building offshore wind farms.
Malloy made this concession even though Deepwater had agreed in its bid to spend its own $15 million on improvements at State Pier. New London won't see one dime of tax money from all that development at the state-owned pier.
The winning bid from Deepwater commits to developing a "host community" agreement with New London but it is dead silent about the terms.
That leaves it to New London to grovel before Deepwater to see what kind of crumbs it may sweep up from the groaning offshore wind buffet served up by the governor.
Mayor Michael Passero was presumably in full grovel mode Tuesday, when Deepwater came to town to talk about its host agreement. The state gave the mayor zip for negotiating leverage.
There were no announcements about generous host city benefits by the end of the day.
We Connecticut ratepayers still don't know how much we will have to pay for this wind power the governor has agreed we must buy — the state made the bid process FOI-proof, and we won't know the per-kilowatt wind premium until they've already negotiated delivery contracts with the power companies.
There's a fight raging on the South Fork of Long Island about a Deepwater project to bring power onshore via a cable under the beach, and there is considerable grousing and protest, in packed public hearings, despite Deepwater's "community benefits" offering of $8.1 million.
Deepwater was compelled by Rhode Island to provide lavishly to Block Island for hosting the first offshore wind farm. Not only did the island get an underground cable to the mainland, but Deepwater gave grants totaling $2 million to cultural institutions on the island.
Here in Connecticut, New London ends up only with permission from the governor to grovel.
I don't blame only the governor. State Sen. Paul Formica and Rep. Chris Soto, who represent the city, were both at the governor's announcement of the State Pier gift to the rich wind power developer.
Next time you see Sen. Formica and Rep. Soto on the campaign trail, ask them what they've done to give New London a share of the offshore wind bonanza, ultimately paid by Connecticut ratepayers.
Don't let them tell you about jobs, either, unless Deepwater comes up with a commitment that a certain percentage of new jobs from the project goes to New London residents.
There is apparently one bit of leverage remaining for New London to use, if representatives bring enough political pressure to bear. It turns out the Department of Economic and Community Development must decide finally whether Deepwater has met the commitments of its bid.
I think $15 million would be a good place for New London to start with its demands. After all, Deepwater was prepared to spend that much to make State Pier usable for the project, before Gov. Malloy rushed in to agree to bond that much.
By my math, that leaves $15 million on the table.
Why not insist Deepwater do some of its assembly and preparation work on private land near the pier, which the city could tax, instead of at State Pier? How about making the company buy from the city the condemned high-rises near State Pier, tear them down, clean up the site and pay taxes on the new facility?
How about some strategic improvements to city infrastructure, which is going to be taxed by the project?
How about planning for a plaque on the historic City Hall, desperately in need of a restoration the city can't afford, saying the rebuilt landmark was paid for by Deepwater Wind?
I wish the mayor good luck in groveling. I hope he made some progress in meetings Tuesday.
I hope he does better than the $100,000 payment he secured from the nontaxpaying Connecticut College.
I don't share all the apocalyptic fears about offshore wind being aired on Long Island lately, where many have sniffed at Deepwater's $8.1 million community sweetener.
I'd like to see New London's arms wide open for this developing industry.
But it shouldn't be another instance in which the city hosts an institution or industry, be it the hospital or nonprofit social service agencies, to the benefit of the region and state, without getting any compensation in taxes.
This is the opinion of David Collins.
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