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    Local Columns
    Wednesday, February 28, 2024

    New London gets shorted in the wind deal

    There was enough hot air blowing around New London for the recent announcement about plans to spend $93 million for a new wind turbine assembly facility here to light up more than a few quadrants of the state's power grid.

    The politicians and wind power purveyors who secretly have been hatching this plan for many months in back rooms finally pulled back the curtain to congratulate themselves and tell the public, who will pay for it all, what is to be foisted on them.

    Don't get me wrong. I like the trajectory of the new embrace of offshore wind development, clean and renewable energy for the future.

    It may be appropriate that New London's port will close to other shipping to exclusively and expensively embrace wind turbine assembly, although it is hard to know, since this enormous decision was made without one whisper of public input.

    It is also clear to me that New London is getting rolled once again, hosting an enormous development, planned to help the region and the state, on state-owned land that it can't tax. The crumbs that have been promised, most not even in writing, are insulting to the taxpayers of New London who must host this profitable investment by a Danish conglomerate.

    The most crazed rhetoric I heard about the closing of the traditional port here came from Gov. Ned Lamont who, in his enthusiastic embrace of wind turbine assembly for New London, said the city will become the "Silicon Valley of renewable energy."

    Sorry, governor, but they are just assembling the turbines here, not designing them or even manufacturing them.

    Also, someone should tell the governor that there is nothing new here. States up and down the East Coast already are planning and investing in their ports for wind development. Massachusetts actually has finished a 29-acre wind assembly facility in New Bedford, where the mayor there wisely has decreed that wind-related projects will not displace or interfere with its existing marine industries, like fishing.

    The New London development may certainly create some jobs but, in all the hoopla and speechmaking, not one of the politicians or the wind power executives poised to profit handsomely from it all uttered any estimates of how many jobs might actually be created.

    It must not be a very impressive number, especially when you divide it into $93 million.

    The governor went off his debt diet in a big way, splurging on wind with a new total state commitment of $35.5 million. A lot of the rest will come from the wind companies and utilities, who will be allowed to monopolistically charge electric ratepayers above-market electricity prices for the wind power.

    Orsted, the Danish powerhouse behind the transformation of New London's port, reported close to $3 billion in profits in 2018.

    New London, after complaining, did finally get a commitment of at least $50,000 a year and $75,000 for municipal services from the deal with the new port operator. Promises of as much as $750,000 a year for the new wind assembly project have been dangled, but there is still no deal in place.

    Why wasn't the city's share included in all the other deal-making? I can promise it won't be very good or fair if it's only an afterthought.

    The city may be able to tax some private-owned equipment at the new facility, but it must not be projected to be much since no estimates were suggested.

    All the big winners in the wind assembly project had high praise at the announcement ceremony for Mayor Michael Passero, but no firm commitments for more money. They might as well have just patted him on the head.

    The quasi-public Connecticut Port Authority, on the other hand, has signed commitments for millions of dollars a year from the wind assembly deal. Unlike the city, the port authority doesn't have to educate children or send ambulances, police cruisers and firetrucks when things go wrong at the new port.

    What will the authority do with all its new riches — gold-plate its bathroom fixtures?

    If the wind turbine assembly facility were on private land, the city would be rich in tax revenues. Instead, the state will host on its nontaxable land a private development by a foreign company and thereby shield the project from taxes that otherwise would be paid to one of its distressed municipalities.

    Imagine if Toyota were allowed to build cars on state property in the city and not pay taxes.

    This is a great injustice to city residents. Alas, the city's representatives to the General Assembly, from both parties, have signed off, too. Voters should remember.

    The concept of the state not paying taxes to municipalities is based on state property being used for public purposes, like bridges and highways and universities. The exemption shouldn't be used to host a profit-making facility, and lawmakers should put a stop to it, for here and anywhere else it may happen.

    The paltry amounts being dangled before the city are wind(ow) dressing, so the governor can have a sound bite saying the city will profit.

    I know the owner of a single-family house on the water in New London who pays almost as much as the promised minimum contribution to New London from the port operator deal.

    That homeowner, and thousands of others in the city, should know that the governor and the mayor and their representatives in the General Assembly seem more committed to shielding a Danish developer from taxes than cutting taxes for residents.

    This is the opinion of David Collins.


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