Purchase Agreement does not reveal specifics of PGW sale

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.

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