The city on Friday officially began the process of selling Philadelphia Gas Works, issuing a request for qualifications from potential buyers.
Companies have until Aug. 23 to respond to the nonbinding RFQ. Then, the city will select a group of finalists to submit binding applications.
Mayor Nutter has made privatizing the utility a priority of his second term.
“I believe strongly that the sale of PGW will create jobs in the city, benefit PGW customers and grow Philadelphia's economy,” Nutter said in a statement. “Philadelphia is the only major city on the East Coast that still owns a gas company.”
Nutter, however, has said the administration will only go forward with a deal if there is an offer lucrative enough to satisfy PGW’s substantial debts and make a pretty penny for the taxpayers.
A city-commissioned study last year said a sale could fetch $1.85 billion. PGW’s debts are estimated to be about $1.3 billion.
City Council and the state Public Utility Commission would have to approve any sale.
PGW is the nation’s largest publicly owned utility, according to the city. Nutter says the time is ripe to sell because the gas service’s fiscal house is in order and the market is hot for utilities.
The potential sale faces opposition from labor groups that believe privatization will hurt workers and skepticism from some who question whether the city will profit from a deal.