By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Members of Philadelphia City Council today delivered a great big I-told-you-so to those who wanted the city to sell off the Philadelphia Gas Works. It came during a committee hearing on the future of the utility now that the sale has been scuttled.
The hearing came three months after Mayor Nutter’s plan to sell PGW was killed by Council and one month the proposed buyer — UIL Holdings — was itself sold to a Spanish firm.
Leading off today’s hearing, Councilwoman Marian Tasco, who opposed the sale from the start, said the sale of UIL proved that City Council’s misgivings were on the mark.
“One of the many reasons my Council colleagues and I were opposed was that the sale agreement did not protect the city and PGW’s customers and employees from this very possibility,” she said.
Tasco then went on to describe the mayor’s plan as “flawed and shortsighted,” and blasted the news media in Philadelphia for supporting it.
“The Inquirer, the Daily News, the Committee of 70 (watchdog group) and other pundits purposefully ignored this and all of our other well-founded concerns,” she said.
And Tasco — who is a member of the Gas Commission, which could have been eliminated if PGW had been sold — delivered her final ‘I told you so’:
“I got news for you, my friends: We on Council did our homework, and we passed with flying colors.”
Today’s hearing explored the broader concept of engaging PGW in a partnership between the city, which owns the utility, and a for-profit firm, rather than an outright sale.
Craig White, the CEO of PGW, said his leadership team is open to the idea.
“Anything’s possible. And I believe if there is a way to have an infusion of (private) capital that would enable us to do things that we couldn’t otherwise might do, that’s in the public’s best interest, that won’t cost the public an inordinate amount of money, I think it’s something we should certainly look at,” he testified. “Our legal staff and our team is poised to look at any opportunity. And we have been looking at it.”
Also testifying in support of a public-private partnership were representatives of Liberty Energy Trust, which was among the original bidders for PGW.
Mayor Nutter had wanted to sell PGW for nearly $2 billion, with about one quarter of the proceeds going to shore up the cash-starved city workers’ pension fund. UIL pulled out of the deal late last year after City Council refused to hold public hearings or schedule a public vote.