Log In


Reset Password
  • MENU
    Local Columns
    Thursday, July 25, 2024

    OPINION: Lamont’s State Pier team tries lipstick on its $300 million pig

    The good news about State Pier for Gov. Ned Lamont seems to be that the two federal grand juries investigating all the reports of corruption in the boondoggle project have not returned an indictment.

    Maybe Lamont and his State Pier team are out of the woods on the criminal investigations front.

    If I were the governor, though, I wouldn’t take too much solace in the current silence from the feds. After all, Donald Trump was under investigation for years before the indictments started to fly.

    The federal subpoenas after all, demanded every single record of the Connecticut Port Authority, emails, letters, bids and expenditures for years, and the subjects included lots of questioned practices, like accepting gifts from contract bidders, giving contracts to associates and awarding a valuable contract and success fee to the company of a former board member.

    If no charges yet is the good State Pier news for Lamont, the bad news is that his principal partner in the massive, mismanaged project, the Danish utility Ørsted, just announced it could abandon Its U.S. offshore wind plans, unless President Joe Biden ramps up federal wind subsidies.

    Yikes.

    This new ultimatum strategy by the Danish utility, of course, means that the hundreds of millions of borrowed dollars Lamont committed to the pier project here might never help produce a single kilowatt of renewable energy for Connecticut.

    The wind turbine parts now spread out over the reconditioned pier are for an offshore farm that won’t produce any electricity for this state. Instead, the power will be supplied to customers on Long Island.

    Indeed, both Ørsted and Spanish-owned Avangrid, the utilities with contracts to supply Connecticut with wind power, say they are reevaluating their U.S. deals.

    Lamont’s administration has been completely mum about what talks have taken place with the utilities about their fulfilling their contracts and delivering agreed-on prices for wind-created electricity.

    It turns out Lamont, with a still unfinished, maybe unnecessary pier project on his plate, may not have an offshore wind strategy at all.

    So much for the promised green new future of the state.

    Once again, though, the Lamont team is being dishonest about the pier.

    As the monumental folly of building a $300 million purpose-built facility for a utility that now says it may not have much need for it after all, Lamont’s team is instead suggesting it will be a useful pier upgrade for other cargo needs.

    That’s the spin offered by port authority Interim Executive Director Ulysses Hammond during a media tour last week of the pier.

    “This is a state asset that is not just here for offshore wind,” Hammond said.

    You could have fooled me, suggesting that’s not exactly what they were planning for at the State Pier, all this time and many tens of millions of dollars later.

    This make-lemonade-out-of-the-souring-lemons of the offshore wind meltdown by Lamont’s team is totally disingenuous and dishonest with the public.

    The fact of the matter is Lamont’s port authority gave control of the New London port to the competition in New Haven, as cargo was diverted there and to other New England ports ― all to make way in New London for wind.

    They turned down a port management bid from the existing port managing company that offered building a wind port while keeping New London open to traditional cargo.

    The remake of the pier was long and expensive because it was designed specifically to accommodate wind. You can see that clearly now, with big wind turbine components spread across the new acres of concrete that used to be waters of the harbor that could accommodate ships.

    Connecticut could have rebuilt its New London piers for a fraction of what it spent and kept the port open to traditional cargo customers. Instead, tilting at wind turbines, they wildly and very expensively subsidized a new wind port that doesn’t do anything that some other New England ports can’t, even if the wind farms continue to be built.

    Next time Hammond or anyone else on the pier team tries to suggest the expensive pier renovations weren’t designed specifically and expensively for wind, give him a good laugh and then ask him to specifically name the other New England-bound cargo and shipping they were trying to attract with the $300 million spent building a wind-friendly port.

    Of course, if wind does go away, other shipping uses ― ones that would not have required $300 million in improvements ― can be found.

    Turns out Lamont is not much of a master builder when it comes to big infrastructure, accepting wild overruns, even back when they seemed inevitable, for a project that may never be needed.

    He’s now trying to justify it, though, and maybe we’ll see if he might be better at putting lipstick on the big pig he’s created in New London’s harbor than he was in landing it there.

    This is the opinion of David Collins.

    d.collins@theday.com

    Comment threads are monitored for 48 hours after publication and then closed.