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CT Construction Digest Wednesday August 21, 2019

Connecticut launches first wind-power-specific auction process
Luther Turmelle
Connecticut officials are looking to bolster the state’s renewable energy portfolio, and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has released a request for proposals seeking up to 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind power.
This is DEEP’s first solicitation dedicated completely to offshore wind. Wind power providers interested in participating in the bidding process have until Sept. 30 to submit proposals.
The process does not call for a minimum amount of wind power to be procured. The winning bidders are expected to be selected in November, using a selection process DEEP officials said will be based upon what is in the best interest of ratepayers.
Gov. Ned Lamont said in a statement the request for proposals represents “the future of the state’s environmental, energy, and economic potential.”
The state already has committed to purchasing 304 megawatts of electricity from the Revolution Wind project, one of the bidders selected from a 2018 solicitation involving multiple types of renewable energy sources. Construction of the Revolution Wind project, which will be built 15 miles off the coast of Rhode Island between Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard, is scheduled to start by 2020 and be completed and in operation by 2023.
The request for proposals comes out of Public Act 19-71, which Connecticut lawmakers approved during this year’s legislative session. DEEP sought comments from a variety of stakeholders in July and released its draft ruling later in the month.
Dykes also convened a Commission on Environmental Standards as part of the RFP development process. The ad hoc commission was created to consider possible ways to avoid, minimize and mitigate any impacts to wildlife, natural resources, ecosystems and other ocean-related uses such as commercial fishing.
The Commission met over a two-month period and released its recommendation to DEEP Aug. 7.
As a result of the commission’s recommendation and more than 150 public comments made to DEEP and the ad hoc group, the state agency made changes to the final language in the request for proposals that requires bidders to:
 Submit an environmental and fisheries mitigation plan for the construction and operation of offshore wind facilities.
A plan for pre-construction and risk assessment to avoid, minimize, and mitigate risks to various stakeholders. A similar plan must be submitted for each of the project phases.
 Provide information on a decommissioning plan for the wind farms.
The timeline for Connecticut’s request for proposals is aligned with a similar offshore wind solicitation process run by Massachusetts officials.
James Albis, a DEEP spokesman, said timing the Connecticut process to coincide with the one in Massachusetts could help reduce the cost of the electricity that will be produced by the winning wind power bids.
“Say, for example, that a wind power developer wants to build an 800-megawatt project and bid 400 megawatts each to Connecticut and Massachusetts,” Albis said. “We would anticipate that if that project is selected by both states, it would result in economies of scale as well as a reduction of soft costs because they will be doing all of their purchasing for both projects at the same time.”
There is a sense of urgency in selecting the winning bidders because a federal Production Tax Credit that benefits wind production is scheduled to expire at the end of this year. Albis said it is possible that the tax credit could be extended, but if it isn’t, construction of a wind power project has to start in some form by year’s end in order to qualify.
“From what I understand, the start of construction is a fairly loose definition,” he said.
The Production Tax Credit is based on a renewable energy project’s per-kilowatt-hour production, according to the Congressional Research Service.
The tax credit is available for the first 10 years of power production once a qualified generation facility becomes operational. Even though the deadline for qualifying for the tax credits is at the end of the year, renewable energy project developers will be able to take advantage of the offsets long after that deadline.

Port authority reveals why director was placed on leave, but questions linger
Julia Bergman
Hartford — The reason behind Evan Matthews, the executive director of the Connecticut Port Authority, being placed on paid administrative leave was finally revealed Tuesday during a five-hour informational hearing convened by the Connecticut General Assembly's Transportation Committee.
Matthews is on leave for comments he made to the media that were "unbecoming of a public sector leader," said David Kooris, acting chair of the port authority's board.
However, there are still many lingering questions surrounding the embattled quasi-public agency, given that several of the decision-makers, including Matthews, did not attend the hearing.
Tuesday's hearing followed a series of personnel issues at the port authority including the resignation of two of its board members, who also served as chair: Bonnie Reemsnyder, Old Lyme's first selectwoman, and Scott Bates, deputy secretary of the state.
On Tuesday, Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano of New Haven wrote to Secretary of the State Denise Merrill asking her to temporarily remove Bates from his position as deputy secretary, "given the recent public allegations regarding the Connecticut Port Authority involving questionable purchases, contracts, and employment decisions." House Republican Leader Themis Klarides, at a news conference prior to the hearing, called for Bates to resign from his post entirely.
Questions also have been raised about the operations of the port authority, including financial decision-making. The port authority receives about $400,000 in state appropriations, in addition to revenue from leasing State Pier, which it owns, in New London.
The hearing started with discussion by state auditors on the findings of their most recent audit of the port authority, which covers fiscal years 2016 and 2017. Auditors found, for example, that the port authority did not maintain accounting records detailing the transactions and balances of its bank accounts during the audited period.
Kooris, who is deputy commissioner of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, did not specify the comments made by Matthews that led to his being placed on leave. He said discussions are ongoing with Matthews to "work out a solution amenable to both parties," and that any next steps would be discussed by and authorized by the board before any action is taken.
Matthews, who was invited to but did not attend Tuesday's hearing, said to The Day on July 11 in regard to Kevin Blacker, a vocal critic of the port authority, "There is something off about him. He either has autism or there is something about him that is anti-social."
Blacker was questioned by state police on Tuesday, shortly after he arrived at the Legislative Office Building for the hearing, in reference to an email he sent over the weekend to Gov. Ned Lamont and a host of others, the subject line of which read, "Governor Lamont is a yellow-belly, My blood will be his hands." After being questioned, Blacker attended the hearing with no issue. The public was not given an opportunity to comment at the hearing.
Klarides, and Reps. Devin Carney of Old Lyme and Laura Devlin of Fairfield, both Republicans who sit on the Transportation Committee, held the news conference prior to the hearing to call out Rep. Roland Lemar and Sen. Carlo Leone, the Democratic co-chairs of the committee, for not using their subpoena powers to compel Matthews, Bates and Reemsnyder to appear before the committee.
Lemar and Leone had invited Bates, Matthews and Reemsnyder to appear at the hearing. Reemsnyder submitted written testimony, saying she had "pre-existing business commitments" related to her job as first selectwoman, but said she wanted to provide written comment so that "people are more fully informed" of the facts surrounding her resignation. It was not clear whether Matthews or Bates responded the co-chairs' invitation.
Reemsnyder, who most recently served as chair, resigned July 24 at the request of Gov. Lamont after reports that the port authority paid her daughter for photographs that hung in its Old Saybrook office. She said in her statement that she initially was unaware of her daughter being approached by an interior designer hired by Matthews.
When she did become aware, she said she immediately informed Matthews and told him she could not be involved "with any aspect of the transaction," and told her daughter the same. Emails that The Day obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request show that Bates approved the purchase, and that he knew the money was going to Reemsnyder's daughter.
Bates, who served as chair of the board from its inception until June, played a pivotal role in the major actions taken by the port authority in its first few years, including selecting a new port operator for State Pier, and negotiating a $93 million public-private investment to establish an offshore wind hub in New London.
Those negotiations are ongoing and lawmakers during the hearing questioned the port authority's ability to negotiate such a major deal, given recent controversy.
The details of the deal and the negotiations have not been made public, but Kooris said Tuesday that a public meeting to discuss the harbor development agreement associated with the deal will be held on Sept. 17 in New London, with the exact location to be determined.
Lawmakers questioned past spending by the port authority, the need for quasi-public agencies, as well as the makeup of their boards, and whether further oversight is required.
Paul Mounds Jr., the chief operating officer for the state, pointed to actions by the governor to increase oversight of the state's quasi-public agencies, whose board members are appointed by the governor and legislative leaders. Mounds indicated that one change that Lamont might propose in the upcoming legislative session is to have the terms of the board members match up with those who appoint them.

On a fishing trip with Gov. Cuomo, Gov. Lamont discusses transportation, tourism, energy -- and catches a few trout

When they weren’t reeling in a few fat steelhead trout out on Lake Ontario Tuesday, the governors of Connecticut and New York found time to discuss transportation, tourism, security, marijuana, tolls and other mutual interests of the two neighboring states.
Continuing his habit of reaching out to neighboring chief executives, Gov. Ned Lamont flew from his vacation home off the coast of Maine to meet Gov. Andrew Cuomo for a day of fishing and policy talk.
 
"We caught and released two fish,'' Cuomo said, later showing off two other chubby trout that the governors had caught. “We’re going to be eating well tonight.”
Cuomo is trying to boost tourism in the area, and Lamont paid from his own funds to take a flight from a small town near his summer home in Maine to far western New York.
In his first year, Lamont has been reaching out to other governors for advice and suggestions. He invited Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo to Willimantic for their first regional summit, and Raimondo will be holding the next three-way meeting in Providence in October. Lamont has repeatedly spoken about the need for regional cooperation with Baker and Raimondo in order to make government operate more efficiently.
And Tuesday morning, far from the difficult discussions about tolls and casinos in Connecticut, Lamont joined Cuomo to talk to reporters with the lake as a backdrop.
Lamont said the two Democrats jumped quickly into the important issues of the day and how they could work collaboratively together to solve mutual problems. The topics included improvements to the Metro-North Commuter Railroad, which connects Connecticut to midtown Manhattan. They also discussed Cuomo’s recent push for "congestion pricing'' in Manhattan that allows higher prices during peak hours -- an issue that has been studied in Connecticut regarding electronic highway tolls.
"He’s supportive of anything we can do to speed up and accelerate transportation,'' Lamont said of Cuomo.
Cuomo agreed that cooperation is needed to make the region run more smoothly.
"There are so many issues that we could do better if we work cooperatively,'' Cuomo told reporters. "Our transportation systems interconnect. Security -- we are all in the same boat when it comes to security. Emergency management, which at one time was a relatively seldom occurrence, now happens almost on a monthly basis. ... If Connecticut has an issue, we can deploy our resources to Connecticut and vice versa. So we’re going to set up sessions where our state police do drills together and are familiar with each other’s practices, protocols and territory.''
Cuomo presented Lamont with a custom-made fishing rod as a gift, along with a tackle box with symbols of both Connecticut and New York.
"I’ve only been in the job eight months,'' Lamont said. "He’s been in it eight years and eight months. I’ve learned these state borders are pretty artificial.''
"People ought to know this is one of the most beautiful regions of the country,'' Lamont said. "I just wanted him to know he’s got a partner in Connecticut, and we’re proud to stand with him.''
In a separate conference call with Connecticut reporters, Lamont said he was looking for personal time with Cuomo to discuss a wide variety of issues.
"I met Governor Cuomo once at a press conference,'' Lamont said. "That’s not the way I like to get to know people.''
Cuomo is expected to come to Connecticut in the fall, Lamont said.
The two governors discussed marijuana, even though the sale is not legal in Connecticut as the legislature has been unable to reach an agreement over the recreational use. Lawmakers have been clashing for years in Connecticut as the anti-marijuana forces have repeatedly blocked the legalization advocates.
Tuesday’s conversation included everything from transportation to power outages to cyber-security, among other topics. New York and Connecticut have plenty in common, such as transportation issues and maintaining quality beaches. They are also trying to take the next steps in developing off-shore wind as a means of generating electricity without pollution.
"Governor Lamont is a star,'' Cuomo said. "He’s done great work in Connecticut in just his first few months. I’m very excited about this partnership, both on an institutional level and on a personal level. He’s brought a fresh mind and fresh perspective to the job. He’s a get-to-yes person.''

 

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