PHILADELPHIA — A Connecticut company said Wednesday that it will continue its efforts to buy Philadelphia's gas utility despite the passage of a deadline that allows it to withdraw.
Officials at the company, UIL Holdings Corp., "have decided to continue our efforts to pursue this acquisition and become a new business partner in the city of Philadelphia," James Torgerson, president and CEO of New Haven, Connecticut-based UIL, said in a statement.
He added that the company believes the sale "is a valuable economic opportunity for the city of Philadelphia."
Mayor Michael Nutter hailed the decision and said the administration eagerly awaited a consultant's report and the opportunity to make its case for the sale of Philadelphia Gas Works.
City Council president Darrell Clarke said council members appreciated the company's cooperation, but added that the deadline didn't consider the council's "duty to fully examine the details of this proposed transaction."
"While the press has largely been fixated on outside forces such as lobbyists that are pressuring City Council to fast-forward the review process, we in City Council answer to other special interests, namely, the households directly impacted by privatization of PGW and the hardworking men and women of PGW who have made this utility the prized asset it is today," he said.
Nutter said in March that the proposed $1.86 billion sale would inject $424 million into the city's distressed pension fund. He said the deal, which must be approved by the City Council and state regulators, would keep rates frozen for three years, maintain discount programs for low-income families and seniors, and safeguard employee and retiree pensions.
The Utility Workers Union of America Local 686, which represents 1,150 PGW workers whose contract expires in 2015, is against a sale, and several environmental organizations have also announced opposition, saying the deal would mean higher gas bills and increased use of natural gas from the vast Marcellus Shale formation, which partly lies under Pennsylvania.
PGW, which traces its history to 1836, is the nation's largest municipally owned gas utility with more than half a million residential, commercial and industrial customers and more than 1,600 employees.
UIL serves about 706,000 electric and natural gas customers in Connecticut and Massachusetts.