By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Mayor Michael Nutter’s long and politically difficult effort to sell PGW has officially ended. The firm chosen to buy the utility has nixed the deal because of City Council’s refusal to debate the plan.
After City Council President Darrell Clarke announced in October that Council would not consider the mayor’s PGW sale proposal, supporters including union leaders mounted desperate efforts to salvage the plan. But with the deal expiring on December 31st, and with Council adjourning for the year next week, UIL Holdings has announced that it has formally terminated the agreement.
In a statement company president James Torgeson said the firm had no choice to do this because no council member even introduced the proposal — a first step toward hearings — and that the firm is disappointed it had come to this. UIL had offered nearly $2 billion to buy PGW.
After the UIL decision to pull out, Mayor Nutter issued a blistering statement slamming City Council for its decision to reject the deal without a hearing. He said Council demonstrated “a massive failure of leadership” and said the city would feel “the negative effects of this indecision for years to come.”
For his part, Council President Darrell Clarke issued a statement blaming the Nutter Administration for the failure of the sale. He said the mayor had created a “shortsighted” deal that suffered from a “lack of sufficient jobs, consumer and safety protections.”
Mayor Nutter said the city should get out of the gas business, and that one-quarter of the proceeds would be used to strengthen the struggling city workers’ pension fund. But opponents said putting the utility in private hands would be a bad deal for PGW customers and for the city.
The deal was largely considered dead two weeks ago, because the Council calendar necessitated a bill introduction then in order for Council to vote before the lawmakers adjourn. Some supporters still held out hope that an introduction of the bill this week might prompt the firm to extend the deal. But that did not happen, leading to UIL’s final announcement.
Members of the state Public Utility Commission, which also would have had to vote on the deal, were critical of the Council President’s decision not to hold hearings. But Clarke had said that there was ‘no appetite’ among council members for selling PGW, and thus he concluded there would be no point in holding hearings.
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