Science & Technology
8:00 pm
Tue June 5, 2012

County, City Controllers Launch Review of Steam Provider

The city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County have purchased steam from Pittsburgh Allegheny County Thermal (PACT) for nearly three decades. The latest 10 year lease is up this summer, so in the interest of making sure the city and county are getting the best deal, County Controller Chelsa Wagner and City Controller Michael Lamb want to do a review of how PACT operates.

"We want to take a look at their finances, we want to take a look at their operations, and we want to take a look at their governance, and then we want to see how the place works, how it operates," said Lamb.

The county and city paid a combined $2.5 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.

The overall goal of the joint review is to get a solid picture of PACT before moving forward with another long-term agreement, and to find out if taxpayers are getting the best price for energy for the facilities they own. Lamb said because of changes in the energy industry steam may no longer be the best choice.

"There have been a lot of incentives to move to new types of energy and several buildings have left PACT over the last few years, which has raised the cost for everyone else, so it really becomes a question of what is the future of PACT as buildings continue to drop off of their system," he said.

Lamb and Wagner expressed concern that PACT President Robert L. Fazio has resisted their review. Lamb said they started out to do a basic review of the cost and benefit of continuing with PACT or not, and the first response was that they bring lawyers, which, he added, raised red flags. Through the review, he said, they hope to get to the bottom of some of PACT's issues.

"Customers have left the system, there have been complaints about the quality of the steam, there are complaints about the infrastructure, which is old (those pipes were put in place in 1915), so there are issues we know PACT needs to deal with, so we started to ask questions, which we think were appropriate questions, and they've been very reluctant to be forward in bringing forth information," said Lamb.

All of the information being sought by Lamb and Wagner is public record. Lamb said the board members of PACT agree that the review needs to be done and he's confident he and Wagner will get the information they need.