Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner and City of Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb will jointly review Pittsburgh Allegheny County Thermal Ltd. to determine whether continuing to buy steam from the member-owned cooperative is a good deal for taxpayers.
“Our objective is to find the best deal for City and County taxpayers,” Lamb said.
“People know energy rates are low because, as consumers, they’re getting offers to change providers for their homes and businesses all the time,” Wagner added, “so we’re also going to look at alternatives to see whether taxpayers can do better.”
The County and City paid a combined .5 million in 2011 for natural gas-generated steam to heat and cool buildings including the Courthouse, City-County Building, County Office Building, Family/ Juvenile Court, Jail, Morgue and Municipal Courts Building. Pittsburgh Allegheny County Thermal’s contracts with Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh expire June 30.
Wagner and Lamb expressed concern that Robert L. Fazio, president of Pittsburgh Allegheny County Thermal, has resisted their review. Fazio canceled a May 23 meeting with the two elected officials on short notice and then refused to reschedule it.
“This organization will not hold County and City taxpayers hostage,” Wagner said. “Anyone getting that much money had better be prepared to answer our questions.”
“We know energy rates elsewhere are falling, and we know customers are leaving Pittsburgh Allegheny County Thermal,” Lamb added. “Our review will shine a light on this organization’s operations and finances.”
In 2010-11, the City of Pittsburgh Office of Sustainability and Energy Efficiency questioned Pittsburgh Allegheny County Thermal’s viability. That study concluded that:
- PACT’s steam is expensive relative to the market, particularly with natural gas prices falling.
- PACT’s infrastructure is costly to maintain and improve.
- Members are opting out of PACT because of its high rates.
In addition to County and City government buildings, Pittsburgh Allegheny County Thermal provides steam to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, U.S. Courthouse, office towers, banks, hotels, non-profits, restaurants and small businesses in Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle.