States offering tax credits in competitions to lure businesses is bad enough. Now Delaware wants to change federal law to give a United Arab Emirates company an advantage over those in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
A couple of years ago Delaware granted UAE-based Gulftainer a 50-year lease to operate the Port of Wilmington.
The state didn’t want to spend the money needed to make the port competitive and the company promised to spend $584 million on it within a decade. Some $410 million of that would be used to convert the former DuPont chemical plant in Edgemoor to an extension of the port.
Selling out its main port wasn’t enough. Delaware Sen. Thomas Carper inserted environmental breaks lucrative to Gulftainer into the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020. One would ease the federal permitting process for it that New Jersey ports have followed for decades. Another would let Gulftainer dispose of dredged material at minimal or no cost at a federal dredge disposal site intended for government projects.
The act, including the gifts to Gulftainer, was approved last month by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, where Carper is the ranking Democrat.
State Senate President Steve Sweeney has urged N.J. and Pa. congressional representatives to stop the giveaway to the foreign company that openly seeks to take business from neighboring ports.
He said the quasi-public South Jersey Port Corp. invested $450 million to create the Paulsboro Marine Terminal on a former refinery depot. Since opening in 2017, its new business of handling steel slabs — 4 million tons so far — has created 1,500 jobs.
Meanwhile, the CEO of Gulftainer “has made it clear that Edgemoor will try to lure business away from existing ports in South Jersey and Philadelphia,” Sweeney said.
Under current law, Gulftainer would have to show it benefits the national economy for this kind of consideration, so Carper and Delaware want to change that to requiring only a local economic benefit — to Gulftainer and Wilmington.
Gov. Phil Murphy and Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf wrote to Congress, urging that “U.S. workers and entities should not be jeopardized by foreign competitors at taxpayer expense,” adding that all similar organizations should compete under the same rules.
Carper’s push for this bit of federal pork is especially galling to Pennsylvania, which spent $140 million to deepen the Delaware River channel. Delaware wouldn’t help pay for that, but its port expansion is only possible because of it.
Nine New Jersey and Pennsylvania congressional representatives have written to their leadership in opposition to the Delaware-Gulftainer subsidy.
Congress needs to let the United Arab Emirates company follow the same rules and procedures required of American companies for many reasons.
A foreign company shouldn’t be given environmental shortcuts when redeveloping a chemical plant site. If this windfall is given to Gulftainer, it will destabilize competition among ports across America.
Pork barrel spending is bad enough. When it’s used to steal business and jobs from ports that have played by the rules, it’s clearly unacceptable and must be rejected.