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Bridgewater blues

Published 03/16/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 03/15/2013 04:59 PM

The more the public learns about Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's $115 million incentive deal to relocate the headquarters of a large global investment company, Bridgewater Associates, from Westport to Stamford, the less attractive it becomes.

To begin with there is the propriety of expending tax dollars to persuade a hedge fund management firm, which manages $130 billion in global investments, to stay in the state. Try that in every day life and it would be labeled extortion.

Then there is the little matter of where it will go - the city where Gov. Malloy served as mayor, providing the launching pad for his gubernatorial campaign. What a coincidence that is.

But most alarming may be the administration's willingness to ignore environmental regulations and long-standing coastal management policies to allow Bridgewater to construct its $750 million headquarters on a 14-acre peninsula jutting into Stamford Harbor. The Coastal Management Act is quite explicit that such waterfront land must be reserved for water-related uses. Just a few years ago state environmental regulators wrote to Stamford officials reminding them to "permanently preserve" the land for such water-related development.

We don't think giving hedge-fund managers a spectacular view of the harbor counts as a water-related use. Yet it appears the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is preparing to grant a waiver. And DEEP Commissioner Dan Esty, without legislative action, says he is ready to expand the duties of his agency.

"There is a commitment in the current Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, DEEP, to take a third 'E' on board, that being the economy," Mr. Esty announced.

We disagree - the mission of the environmental agency is protecting the environment and serving as a check on development plans that run contrary to that mission. If economic growth, and not environmental protection, becomes the agency's priority, then the pendulum will swing dangerously in favor of development.

Gov. Malloy argues the deal keeps Bridgewater in the state and could generate 1,000 more jobs. Fine, then look for a location that doesn't violate coastal management policies. But as things stand, the governor is seeking to bend too many rules to get this project done. Environmentalists must keep pushing back, even if the state environmental agency will not.

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