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Sale Sidelined, Phila. City Council Opens Wider Hearing on Future of PGW

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Philadelphia City Council today opened two days of hearings on the future of the Philadelphia Gas Works by taking a shot at Mayor Nutter, whose plan to sell the utility has been scuttled by Council.

It was not the hearing that Nutter wanted, and he sent no administration officials to testify.  He had wanted City Council to hold a hearing, and eventually vote, on his plan to sell PGW for $1.86 billion to a private firm.

Council's proceedings will not include a vote.  Instead, the hearing is looking at broader issues on the future of PGW.

Councilwoman Marian Tasco (top photo), who also chairs the city's Gas Commission, scolded the mayor for, in her view, excluding Council from the bidding process:

"The mayor decided to skip this conversation and pick the most extreme alternative -- to permanently divest ourselves of a very valuable city asset.  The mayor continues to pretend that he involved Council in this process, but actions speak louder than words," Tasco said.

As the hearing opened, City Council president Darrell Clarke insisted that the specifics of the sale are being discussed, even if no vote is scheduled.

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(City Council president Darrell Clarke, at the PGW hearing. Image from City of Phila. TV)


"We have said all along, if anyone wants to come and talk about the proposed sale, as presented by the Nutter administration, it's open and available," Clarke said.

The mayor will, though, appear Friday before a more receptive audience, at a separate hearing on PGW being held at Drexel University by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.   PUC members scheduled that session after Clarke announced that he would not allow a vote on the UIL sale agreement.

Nutter wants to sell PGW to UIL Holdings, based in Connecticut, with about one quarter of the proceeds going to shore up the city workers' pension fund.

Opponents say a sale would subject residents to undue rate hikes and endanger relief programs for seniors and low-income families.

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