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Amid City Council Inaction, PGW Bidder Declines To Extend Deal

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Today brought what are likely the final nails in the coffin of Mayor Nutter's proposed deal to sell the Philadelphia Gas Works, with further inaction by City Council and a statement from the anointed buyer saying that it will not continue working to keep the deal alive.

Today's City Council meeting was the final chance for any lawmaker to introduce the required legislation in order for a vote to happen by year's end, when the PGW sale agreement expires.

Speculation had been rampant that one or two councilmembers were considering introducing the measure at today's session.   But to do so would have been at odds with Council president Darrell Clarke's decision not to schedule a hearing or hold a vote on the deal, and in the end no member was willing to take that step.

After Council adjourned today, a spokesman for UIL issued a statement saying that the company has no plans to extend the sale agreement beyond the current year.

"We're now just at a point where the contract expires at the end of the year, and there isn't a need to extend it beyond that point," said Michael West, a spokesman for the Connecticut-based utility conglomerate, adding that company officials are disappointed the deal never came to be.

"I think all the reports that have been completed unequivocally acknowledge that we are qualified to be owners, and have met all the requirements to do the job of operating PGW," he said today.  "And clearly there is some disappointment that we haven't had a chance to present our case."

This means that unless Clarke adds an additional City Council meeting to the calendar in December -- which is considered extremely unlikely -- the plan is, once and for all, dead.

Clarke, for his part, has already moved on, and is focused on what he calls a "public-private partnership" for PGW.

"I've indicated to both the administration and UIL that (such a partnership) was something that had a lot of traction in this body.  I don't know where that will go.  But we hope to continue focusing on opportunities as it relates to (Philadelphia as) an energy hub," Clarke said today.

Councilman-at-large Ed Neilson says two days of general hearings on PGW last week ensured that no actual legislation would get introduced on the sale.

"The hesitation of any member to introduce it would have been (because of) the success of the hearings that the Council president had," Neilson said today.  "Those two days shed a lot of light on a lot of issues that many of us weren't aware of, or were confused because we were being sent different signals from different parts of City Hall."

And Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sanchez says with this deal apparently dead, the ball is now in the mayor's court to chart a path for PGW's future.

"It is up to the executive branch to continue to work with the leadership to figure that out -- how do we move that forward," she told KYW Newsradio.

The mayor had wanted to sell PGW for $1.86 billion, but Clarke said there was no appetite among councilmembers for the idea, and so he never scheduled hearings or a vote.


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