Darrell Clarke, when asked, said today the likelihood of City Council approving the sale of Philadelphia Gas Works is still up in the air.
"From our perspective it's day one as it relates to the process," he said. "As was said yesterday we haven't had an opportunity to review any of the documents, not only the documents that the mayor selected but the documents were submitted from the responses to the requests for proposals."
He added: "I think it's important for us to look at all of the proposals to ensure this particular proposal was the best one and if we find that to be the case we will vet that particular proposal."
Mayor Michael Nutter announced Monday morning that he has agreed to sell Philadelphia Gas Works to New England-based UIL Holdings Corporation for $1.86 billion.
After the city pays its bills and dues, it expects to have between $424 million and $631 million remaining that it will then use to bolster the city’s pension fund, which is currently less than 50 percent funded, Nutter said.
The deal is pending approval of the Public Utility Commission and City Council. Council approval might prove difficult as members have expressed hesitation in the past to forfeit the valuable asset.
Clarke said since he and his fellow Councilmembers were not involved in evaluating any of the offers for the utility company, none of them can know whether "This is the best selection for what would be the most significant transaction in the history of the city of Philadelphia."
"We don't even know if the deal makes any sense from a fiscal perspective because we haven't seen it," Clarke added.
He said Council will take as much time as it needs to decide on whether or not to approve the sale.
"This is a significant asset," Clarke said, "that taxes virtual every citizen. … so, I don't think we should rush through this process to meet somebody's timeline. I think that we should do this in a fair and reasonable approach and make sure that we make the right decision."
Since Council has disputed bills and offers from Nutter in the past, is that any indication that council will dispute the PGW sale?
"We have received some proposals from the administration that we haven't felt comfortable with," Clarke said,"We have received some proposals from the administration that we haven't felt comfortable with,the most recent and most significant was AVI that was forwarded to us from the administration."
Clarke said that while the AVI bill was delayed for several reasons it ultimately passed.
"It's not that we're looking forward to blocking an initiative from the administrtion, but we want to make sure at the end of the day that the decision we make works for all of the citizens of the city of Philadelphia," he added.
Clarke also said he wants to explore the possibility of the city becoming a large energy hub on the East Coast.
"The city of Baltimore was exploring the possibility of exporting natural gas," he said. "So I would like to have a broader conversation not just about who ends up owning PGW but about the strategy of creating new jobs in the region."
What about the commitment to freeze rates for three years after the sale is final?
"Well, what happens at the end of three years?," Clarke rhetorically asked.
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