BUZZ blog: Veolia on Duluth Steam Co-op: Never say neverWould-be steam buyer of utility backs off on immediate efforts to broker a purchase of the city's steam utility but expresses continued interest.
By: Peter Passi, Duluth News Tribune
Peter Passi and Brandon Stahl cover issues related to the city of Duluth. Follow BUZZ on Twitter.
Veolia responds to steam vote
After the Duluth City Council shot down plans to pursue a sale of the Duluth Steam Cooperative last week, I called Keith Oldewurtel, a Veolia Energy exec who had been involved in negotiating a tentative sales agreement for the system. You'll recall Veolia was looking to buy the utility for about $7.3 million.
Last Monday, six of nine Duluth city councilors indicated they did not support efforts to privatize the steam network.
I asked Veolia if this was a deal killer and here is their reply, even though it came late for deadline on a daily story...
"Although we remain open to the prospect of helping to increase the economic and environmental sustainability of the City of Duluth's steam production, Veolia Energy respects the recent City Council decision and has reassessed its position regarding the purchase of the Duluth steam system. We have been working on this project for some time, after having responded to the City's request for proposals. This has enabled us to develop our understanding of the needs of the system, and has allowed us to have some positive and productive discussions with both the staff at the steam plant and a number of their customers. But we are very reluctant to continue spending our resources on these efforts without the City Council's endorsement of the current sale process."
"Veolia Energy is a responsible company with a very strong environmental record, and our professionally operated district energy systems in 15 U.S. cities demonstrate our dedication to leadership in the drive to improve economic and environmental sustainability. We also have a strong track record of conducting smooth transitions when we make acquisitions, working with the operators, unions, customers and broader community. Our long-term commitment, capability and willingness to upgrade infrastructure and equipment would have increased the reliability of the Duluth system and helped to reduce the City's carbon footprint, while also providing the City with funds needed to address its bonded indebtedness. Should there be renewed interest in this initiative, Veolia Energy remains open to resuming its efforts, addressing the City Council's concerns, and purchasing the steam network."
To sum up, it sounds like Veolia is cooling its jets on Duluth for now but might be willing to take another run at the city's steam cooperative at some later date in a different political climate.