Former Mayor Street opposes PGW sale

Posted: June 20, 2014

FORMER MAYOR John Street yesterday spoke against the proposed sale of Philadelphia Gas Works, leading a crowd of about 100 union protesters in chants of "Just say no! Just say no!" outside City Hall.

Street, who as mayor began a turnaround of the utility when it was on the verge of bankruptcy, said PGW would be taken over by "a for-profit that is run by people whose main goal is to make money."

"I don't want a minimum wage, poorly trained worker coming to my house when I call and say, 'I smell gas,' " Street said to members of Gas Workers Union Local 686. "People die when those decisions are made. . . . This is a decision of life and death."

UIL Holdings Corp., the Connecticut company that wants to buy PGW for $1.86 billion, has committed to offering jobs to all current workers.

The idea that an established utility operator like UIL would use poorly trained workers to handle gas lines was "absurd," said Mark McDonald, spokesman for Mayor Nutter.

To sell PGW, Nutter, who as a city councilman often butted heads with Street, needs an OK from the state Public Utility Commission and from City Council, whose president, Darrell Clarke, is a former Street protege.

Council yesterday held its last meeting before a three-month summer break without acting on the sale. Clarke has said Council is waiting to receive a report from a consultant it's paying $425,000 to compare the UIL deal with the offers from losing bidders and explore alternatives to a sale.

At the union rally, McDonald pointed out that Street floated the idea of selling PGW when he was mayor. Both the Inquirer and Daily News reported in 2002 that Street considered selling, but Street said otherwise yesterday.

"That's not true. I didn't try to sell PGW. First of all, there was no market for PGW, it was in such bad shape," Street said. "We hired a consultant to look into potential asset sales all over the government because it's something that you do, but we never made any effort to sell PGW."

Another former mayor, W. Wilson Goode Sr., has come out in favor of the sale. He wrote an op-ed in the Philadelphia Tribune last month laying out his argument.

On Twitter: @SeanWalshDN


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