Gov. Lamont, come clean on the stalled New London port deal

Predictably, attention to the General Assembly Transportation Committee's December hearing on the scandal-ridden Connecticut Port Authority so far has focused on the corruption.

Of course, I, too, want to hear from the decision-makers who presided over the swampy quasi-public agency, its boozy luncheons and lucrative jobs and contracts for friends and the politically connected.

But I also believe lawmakers need to demand answers from the Lamont administration, which has continued to keep a lid on the scandals, offering a hush payment to an employee with dirt and deploying private lawyers making hundreds of dollars an hour to fight disclosures before the state Freedom of Information Commission.

Most important, legislators need to demand a full explanation of the stalled deal for a $93 million remake of New London's port to accommodate plans by Danish wind giant Ørsted and electric utility Eversource to use it for wind turbine assembly.

Surely, when it comes to answering this question, lawmakers should not tolerate another disingenuous performance by David Kooris, the deputy commissioner of Connecticut's Department of Economic and Community Development, who has been installed by Lamont as scandal manager at the port authority.

Kooris has perfected the nonanswer to this pressing question about why the negotiations for the port makeover have dragged on through the summer and fall, blaming it on the lawyers, as if it's only the wording of a few paragraphs that keeps everyone from signing.

This is absurd. Please stop pretending the public is so stupid. Some significant issue is at play, and taxpayers should know what it is.

Kooris used to talk about the urgency of signing the deal before a crucial 45-day window, which he never explained, closed. Many more than 45 days have passed, and he's stopped using that term.

The background is that Ørsted and Eversource are competing for huge new wind purchase awards from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which could be valued in the billions of dollars.

Are Ørsted and Eversource holding the New London port deal hostage over these new awards?

The partners already are engaged in a public relations competition with other bidders, offering lots of sweeteners that really have nothing to do with how completive their newest bid for supplying wind-generated electricity might be. The only reason Ørsted and Eversource can offer $100 million in community projects linked to their winning the bidding is because they stand to make such an enormous fortune off of electric ratepayers.

The other insult to the public is that we don't even know how much these wind deals will increase electric rates. The rate bids are hidden by law for 90 days after the award is made by DEEP.

That 90-day period for the first award to Ørsted and Eversource has expired, but the Public Utility Regulatory Authority approved a motion by Ørsted and Eversource to continue to keep the rate secret until the power is actually supplied and ratepayers are billed.

DEEP is preparing motions asking PURA to end the secrecy. But there is nothing to prevent Ørsted and Eversource from disclosing today how much their first winning bid will raise rates.

Lawmakers should demand this disclosure immediately, if they care more about their constituents than the powerful lobbyists behind the rich wind deals.

I remain opposed to the deal to transform New London into a wind assembly port at the expense of traditional cargo. To make matters worse, the port authority has essentially shut down the port, by turning it over to the owners of the competing non-union port facility in New Haven, who make more money on ships docked there.

But Gov. Lamont at least owes Connecticut citizens an explanation of why a pending deal that is partly at the root of essentially shutting New London's port has soured.

Otherwise, it's the same old secretive, sleazy port authority under new management.

This is the opinion of David Collins.


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