Some lawmakers remain mum about a wind-only port

The most incredible spin I've heard about plans to close New London's historic port to traditional cargo, like the salt needed to spread on snow-covered roads in the region, was this from Treasurer Shawn Wooden:

"It can help create jobs, lower electricity costs for residents, and help reduce Connecticut's dependence on fossil fuels," Wooden wrote of the Connecticut Port Authority wind development plans for New London, in an August op-ed in The Day.

The official jobs estimate for exclusive wind use of the New London port is an unimpressive 300 workers. Yes, wind power would reduce reliance on carbon fuels. But it will raise electricity costs, not lower them. That's actually baked into the profit formula, which the treasurer, of all people, should understand.

An astute reader tried to hold the treasurer to account for peddling to the public this fantasy about lower electric rates, filing a Freedom of Information request for his source material. Incredibly, Wooden's staff produced a web link to a news release from Ørsted, the Danish wind giant that wants exclusive use of New London's port, claiming millions in customer savings.

So that's what it's come down to folks, Connecticut policy making and elected leaders' public pronouncements based on misleading news releases from a foreign company.

I can shrug off the inaccurate rhetoric of the Democratic treasurer, who like Gov. Ned Lamont, seems happy to tilt at expensive foreign-manufactured wind turbines, but I am more chagrined by the silence of local lawmakers about the way New London is being mistreated as its port is remade.

Christine Conley of Groton and Cathy Osten of Sprague, both Democrats, are apparently willing to challenge the party line on this and have publicly complained about the plans to close New London's port to all business but assembling foreign-made turbines.

What about New London's own representative, Anthony Nolan? Does the governor have his tongue? What about New London's Republican state Sen. Paul Formica? I have seen him shoulder to shoulder with all the Democratic wind enthusiasts, but I have not heard him utter one word of concern about closing New London to traditional cargo.

At least Republican Sen. Heather Somers of Groton, in her own op-ed piece on the project, said: "Allowing one client to completely occupy a harbor requires more study, more public input and, certainly, more confidence in the officials tasked with finalizing the details."

The most outspoken politician complaining about the proposed single-use port has been U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, a Democrat, who scored $7 million in federal grant money to restore the rail lines to the port to support more inland manufacturing and development.

As the governor plans to rush this bad deal through the crippled, scandal-ridden port authority, I have only heard one lawmaker of any party decry the cheap offer to reimburse New London for the extensive development the governor is planning for nontaxable state-owned land.

Osten called the proposed 10 percent share of port authority revenue minuscule. The city's own mayor, not bucking the party establishment, shamefully agreed to those minimum annual payments of $115,000. A few waterfront residential property owners in the city pay that combined.

The clock is ticking. The wind deal seems to be the only one the governor thinks he can score, at least it's something he can try to do without the support of the General Assembly. If he could get tolls through the broken port authority, he would.

Alas, I have little confidence in local lawmakers being able to slow him down and involve the public in the process. But there is still a little time left, and I would be happy to be proven wrong.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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