After taking more than four years to arrive at a decision to sell Philadelphia Gas Works, the Nutter administration is now pushing for a rush to judgment by City Council regarding one of the most significant decisions this city will ever make.
People are coming out of the woodwork to support the mayor’s position.
But, how many of them have read the 85-page Asset Purchase Agreement between the city and UIL Holdings? How many actually understand its complex details?
Anyone who reads this agreement will quickly learn that it does not reveal all of the specifics of the deal. Some of the fine print is buried in other documents (such as the Seller Disclosure Letter), which have not yet been made public.
I have publicly stated that I do not support the proposed sale. In part, that is because the Nutter administration never seriously considered or evaluated other alternatives to permit the city to capture the upside benefits of owning PGW.
It is true we are the largest major city that still owns a gas utility. But, we also are the only major city that owns a gas utility with strategically desirable facilities to liquefy and store natural gas.
Therefore, we need to fully analyze and understand both the short-term and the long-term implications of divesting ourselves permanently of such a valuable asset.
Given the complexity and importance of the proposed transaction, City Council would be irresponsible if we did not do our own due diligence. Appropriately, Council has retained a respected, independent consultant (Concentric Energy Advisors) to assist in the analysis.
Concentric began its work, which includes digging into the myriad details of the thousands of pages of documents that were used in the sale process, just a little over one month ago.
Council is proceeding toward an informed decision with all deliberate speed. But we should not cut corners in the process to satisfy a deadline that was unilaterally set by the administration.
When the administration tried to do the same thing with property taxes and the Actual Value Initiative, Council took the time to do it correctly with better results. As Chicago’s experiment with privatization of its parking meters showed, if the responsible elected officials don’t carefully examine all of the details of a transaction, the citizens can get burned.
Let’s not act in haste, only to repent at leisure. ••
Councilwoman Marian Tasco, who is in her seventh term, represents more than 150,000 Philadelphia residents in areas including Lawncrest and Oxford Circle. She is the chairwoman of the Philadelphia Gas Commission.