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Gov. Lamont, New London's waiting

It's September. Kids are back to school. We seem to have wrung the worst of the summer heat out of the air. And the pandemic feels a lot more manageable in Connecticut now than it did back in March.

So, I would have to ask Gov. Ned Lamont, what's your excuse for letting New London Mayor Michael Passero swing in the wind all this time, since last winter, unable to convince Eversource and its Danish partner Ørsted to agree to reimburse the city for the services it will provide those rich utilities, when they start assembling wind turbines at State Pier?

I will put aside for a moment the very bad, insider-friendly deals you have blessed, delivering the state-owned port in New London to its politically connected competitor in New Haven, which promptly shut it down, and pledging a substantial contribution, including all cost overruns, for the massive $156 million wind turbine assembly facility planned for State Pier.

What I can't forget, though, and what I will try to help every eastern Connecticut voter remember for a long time, is the way you cheated the people of New London out of a fair share from the development.

I would put it down as probably the most egregious insult, not just to the city of New London but the surrounding region, which depends on the health of its urban center, that I've ever witnessed by a Connecticut politician. And I'm old.

Governor, you signed the wind assembly deal for State Pier, fawning over the mega-rich utilities, giving away the store, tens of millions of borrowed state money, while reserving no aid at all for New London, which will host a giant project crafted to benefit the shareholders of the rich American and European utilities.

Shame on you.

You signed the pier deal, which left open the question of how much to reimburse the city, and then told the mayor to make his own deal, leaving him zero leverage. Good luck with that, you might have called out to the mayor from the back window of your limo as it sped out of town.

Surprise. Surprise. The wily utility executives, who all have seven-figure paydays, have not stepped up. Why should they? There's no pressure. I'm sure they are still giggling at what they got away with.

You gave them a free pass and didn't even toss Mayor Passero a scrap from the table of greed.

Even more insulting to Connecticut taxpayers and electric customers, is that the state has promised the utilities they can charge above-market rates for the electricity made by the turbines assembled on tax-free land in New London.

But you won't tell us how much that electricity will cost, until it actually appears on our bills.

That's right, the state has agreed to a secret rate hike. When the higher rates finally hit our bills, the politicians who made it happen will feign outrage again, until the storm blows over.

I blame all the legislators from eastern Connecticut for letting the governor get away with this insult to New London, for leaving poor Mayor Passero all alone in the fight.  They should all be shouting from their rooftops.

I reached out to ask two senators from the region, Sen. Norm Needleman of Essex and Paul Formica of East Lyme, who serve on the Energy Committee, which sets the table for the above-market rate wind electricity feasts on ratepayer money, what they think.

Formica told me he is sorry he doesn't have a seat at the negotiating table, but he remains confident that a host deal for New London will be worked out. He couldn't answer why he thinks so, when I pressed him.

Needleman promised to press the governor to bring it to a conclusion, agreeing that it has festered too long.

Back before the deal was signed and Lamont cheated New London, there was talk of payments by the utilities in the neighborhood of $1.5 million a year. That kind of money falls into the cracks of the leather seats in the utility executives' private planes.

It's a scrap that New London desperately needs and only a fraction of the property tax that would be due the poor city if the utilities weren't getting a free ride, developing their profitable business, for which they are guaranteed buyers who must pay above-market rates, on tax-free state land.

The governor should be able to solve this with a stern phone call.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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