PGW Exec and Mayoral Aspirant Doug Oliver Endorses a Sale

The utility's fate could be settled for good tomorrow in City Council.

Doug Oliver, Mayor's Press Secretary. Copyright City of Philadelphia. Photograph by Mitchell Leff.

Doug Oliver, Mayor’s Press Secretary. Copyright City of Philadelphia. Photograph by Mitchell Leff.

Mayoral aspirant Doug Oliver got knocked around a bit a few weeks ago after launching his exploratory committee on account of lacking any discernible agenda or priorities. Well, today Oliver is staking out a clear, detailed position on one of the most controversial political debates of the moment: the fate of PGW.

Oliver’s view is unequivocal: Sell it.

Oliver is probably best known for his role as Mayor Nutter’s first-term press secretary, but before and after that stint he has worked as a PGW executive, which makes his opinion in this instance pretty interesting. Employee opinion at PGW on whether the utility would be better off under private ownership seems to be split pretty clearly between rank and file union members, who oppose the sale, and management like Oliver.

PGW chief executive Craig White has emerged in recent weeks as a vocal advocate of a sale. He told the Inquirer’s Andy Maykuth recently: “I’m certain that an investor-owned PGW would play a much larger role in the development of an energy hub than a municipal PGW will.”

You’ll recall that City Council President and other members of council leadership opted not to hold hearings on the sale or introduce the sale bill, effectively killing the deal. In recent days, though, there have been rumblings that a council member may actually the PGW sale bill at Council’s meeting tomorrow, in defiance of leadership’s opposition to the sale.

If not, the deal is almost certainly dead.

Oliver, who is presently gauging the interest of young, largely uninvolved voters in his campaign, makes familiar arguments for selling PGW: help for the pension fund, accelerated investment in aging PGW infrastructure, and a greater flexibility to take advantage of the opportunities an energy hub may present.

It’s just one position, on a matter Oliver knows well, but it’s nonetheless nice some policy talk in the mayoral discussion. His full letter outlining his position is below.

Doug Oliver PGW Op-Ed