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Steel company to build turbine bases for wind project off the DE-MD coast

From: Delaware Business Now

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan Thursday  joined Ørsted and Crystal Steel in Caroline County on the state’s Eastern Shore to announce Maryland’s first offshore wind steel fabrication center.

“The entire mission of my administration has been to leave our state in better shape for future generations,” said Hogan. “That means adding jobs, it means making Maryland more affordable, and it also means investing in our state’s energy future. That’s exactly why I’m so pleased to celebrate this transformative partnership between Ørsted and Crystal Steel to establish Maryland’s very first offshore wind steel fabrication center.”

The $72 million partnership will allow Crystal Steel to increase its workforce by 30% in order to construct Ørsted’s turbine foundations. These turbines will provide renewable energy to 1.3 million homes across the state.

The turbines would operate about 20 miles off the coast of Fenwick Island, DE, and Ocean City, Md at Ørsted’s Skipjack wind farm.

Ocean City officials want to move the turbines and towers further offshore, claiming the structures will damage tourism. Wind power backers say the turbine towers that are equal in height to large skyscrapers will amount to a dot on the horizon.

While the Skipjack power would be counted toward Maryland’s renewable energy mandate, Ørsted says the wind farm will boost the Delaware economy.

Ørsted expects electric lines from Skipjack to come ashore in Delaware, with the Indian River Power Plant site a possible candidate. The coal-fired plant could close as early as next year.

Hogan noted that Maryland has experienced the nation’s fourth-fastest job growth and was recently named the most improved state for business in America.

Is the Diamond State Port a Sinking Ship?

From: Kathleen Rutherford, Executive Director, A Better Delaware

The Port of Wilmington on paper should be a profitable industry that brings Delawarean’s many maritime jobs. It is a top importer of fresh fruits and is in a favorable geographic position to allow truckers easy access to the nations interstate system. Despite this, the state-run Diamond State Port Corp was operating in the area with a $10 million loss annually. Their solution was to lease the port in 2018 to Gulftainer, a port operator based out of the United Arab Emirates. This decision was celebrated at first, but it is currently unclear if the $600 million deal  will turn profitable.

According to Gulftainer, it has continually lost money over the past three years.  Yet according to the American Journal of Transportation, Wilmington Port’s revenue increased by 50 percent year over year, including with the pandemic. This lack of cash by Gulftainer  is even more troubling when observing that they received $7 million from the federal government’s PPP program as well as a line of credit through their mortgage worth up to $350 million. Why has our state investment been delayed compared to other ports,  when food shipments seem to have held up well and financial resources abundant?

Additionally during the peak of the pandemic the State allowed for the company to postpone investing an additional $250,000,000 into the construction of a new container terminal. State permits for the facility had been approved albeit through questionable legislation which gave Gulftainer an advantage against other competitors. Senator Thomas Carper used his congressional influence to insert terms into the America’s water Infrastructure Act of 2020 (which he co-sponsored) that were specifically favorable to the company. These provisions include allowing Gulftainer to dispose of dredged material at federal dredge disposal sites for almost no cost and changing the environmental rules surrounding the Edgemore former chemical site by allowing for development permits to be issued for the port without the environmental studies that are typically required.

Delaware Secretary of State Jeffery Bullock with the help of our legislators made an amendment to Gulftainers original lease agreement. This amendment has effectively lowered the annual fee that Gulftainer pays to Delaware in exchange for the erasure of debt that Delaware owed to the company. The debt was revealed to be $13,400,000, but they failed to disclose the interest rate that Delaware was paying on the loan. Without this information, it is impossible to tell if this was a move made in the taxpayers favor or a money saving maneuver for the state.

There was also an attempt to gain access to emails sent between Gulftainer officials and the executive director of the Diamond State Port Corp that were denied. Refusing to make this information public knowledge may be indictive of either wrongdoing or an even an unfavorable economic forecast of the company’s future.

The Port of Wilmington has the potential to become one of Delaware’s greatest assets. It remains to be seen if Gulftainer will be able to turn the port profitable, with its current lack of financial management. It is clear however that offering Gulftainer favorable treatment and failing to publicly disclose all its dealings are troubling business practices by our State that should be questioned. Continued lack of accountability and transparency within our state government will erode public trust and discourage economic growth in Delaware.

 

 

 

 

 

State Senate releases draft district maps for public review

From: Delaware Public Media

State senators have released the first drafts of new district maps today.

In Delaware, state lawmakers are responsible for drawing the maps that split the state up for the next ten years.

And a ten percent increase in population from 2010 means the state senate districts have changed dramatically.

Districts around some of Delaware’s larger cities have shifted to be represented by just one state senator, Middletown being a prominent example alongside Smyrna.

Newark’s districts have also shifted, as was predicted by Senate President Pro Temp Dave Sokola. Sokola says Newark’s districts may look different because many students who are typically counted during the census were absent last year during the pandemic.

And according to senate staff, none of the current state senators have been pushed out of their own districts, although the districts they represent may encompass entirely new cities. Read more.

Wilmington officials, workers now required to take annual ethics training

From: Delaware Live 

Wilmington elected officials, appointed officials and city employees will be required to participate in annual ethics training thanks to an ordinance passed during Thursday’s City Council meeting.

The proposal, sponsored by the council’s lone Republican member, James Spadola, passed with 10 council members voting ‘yes.’

Councilwomen Shané Darby, D-District 2, and Yolanda McCoy, D-District 6, voted ‘present,’ and Councilwoman Loretta Walsh, D-At Large, was absent.

Under the ordinance, the city’s mayor, treasurer, council members and full-time city employees will be required to attend or watch a recording of an Ethics Commission-approved training presentation, then submit a certification verifying they attended the session.

“It’s important for ethics to be ever-present in our minds as we’re going about our day-to-day business,” Spadola said while introducing the ordinance. “This is about preventing unintentional mistakes due to not being up to speed on the ins and outs of the law.” Read more.

Housing Authority: No federal money had to be returned by Oct. 4

From: Delaware Live

It’s unclear how much the Delaware State Housing Authority has spent of the nearly $300 million it has received for rental assistance.

While some officials had feared that updated guidance from the U.S. Treasury would require the state to return that money as early as Monday, Oct. 4, a spokeswoman for the authority said Thursday, “There is no Oct. 4 deadline for returning funds.”

She declined to comment further.

The Delaware Housing Assistance Program, or DEHAP, was created to provide emergency housing assistance to renters affected by shutdowns, closures, layoffs, reduced work hours, unpaid leave or financial hardship related to COVID-19.

Delaware was awarded approximately $200 million in emergency rent relief funds out of the $46.6 billion dedicated nationally through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

Additional funds have been allocated by the federal government since, bringing the total amount of assistance available closer to $300 million.

Based on updated guidance released Monday by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, all states, counties and cities that had not dispersed at least 30% of their federal funds and allocated at least 65% of their money by Sept. 30 could be forced to return funding. Read more.

State to spend $50 million to help people qualify for better jobs

From: Town Square Live

Delaware will put $50 million of COVID-19 relief money into workforce development, but exactly how that money will be spent isn’t clear.

The plan was announced by Gov. John Carney Tuesday morning without an explanation of where the money would go. A press release from his office two hours later listed some projects that will receive money but gave little detail on specifically how it will be used.

To pay for the initiatives, Carney plans to tap the more than $1 billion in COVID-relief funds Delaware received from the American Rescue Plan Act, a federal stimulus package aimed at hastening the economic recovery from the pandemic.

“We’re focused on investments that will build on the strengths of Delaware’s world-class workforce and support Delaware families and businesses who were most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Carney said at the press conference. “These workforce development programs will help Delawareans develop the skills they need to succeed in a 21st-century economy.” Read more.