Summer brake: Clarke says no hurry on PGW sale

Posted: June 19, 2014

City Council President Darrell L. Clarke said Tuesday that legislation on the proposed sale of the Philadelphia Gas Works would not be introduced before the summer recess, drawing a sharp rebuke from Nutter administration officials who have been urging Council to start moving on the $1.86 billion deal.

Suzanne Biemiller, the mayor's first deputy chief of staff, said Clarke's decision could jeopardize the sale of the city-owned utility to UIL Holdings Corp. of Connecticut, which can opt out of the deal as of July 15.

"Obviously, the decision will be theirs to make, and we hope they'll stick around," Biemiller said. "I just don't know what they'll do."

Mayor Nutter sent the legislation to Council on April 10, but no member would introduce it. Clarke said he didn't "anticipate" the bill's being aired Thursday, the final scheduled meeting before the 12-week summer recess.

He also called the July 15 opt-out an "artificial" deadline hashed out between UIL and the administration.

"At no point in time were those timelines discussed with members of the City Council of Philadelphia, the entity that ultimately would have to approve the sale," he said.

Clarke said no one from UIL had asked him to introduce the legislation before Thursday.

Michael West, UIL's director of corporate communications, repeated the company's position Tuesday that it "respects City Council's process." He said he did not want to "prejudge" what would happen July 15.

"Obviously, we'll evaluate where we're at," he said. "Our goal is to get [the sale] done. We would like to get to the end of the process as soon as possible."

The agreement terminates automatically Dec. 31 if Council takes no action, setting up Council's fall slate of meetings as do-or-die time for the sale.

Clarke and other members have said repeatedly that they would wait for a report on the sale that they commissioned from consultants at Concentric Energy Advisors.

Council members had briefings Tuesday with the consultants, but members described the meetings as "very basic" and based on information that already was publicly available.

The consultants did not say when their report would be completed, Council members said.

Biemiller said she hoped the briefings signaled that Council would "stop ignoring this significant transaction," but was disappointed that the meetings were so superficial.

"It really wasn't a briefing today," she said. "I'm really at a loss as to what's going on. I'm bewildered."

215-854-2730 @troyjgraham

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