December 18, 2012

Franklin County towns looking into natural gas pipeline

Summit Natural Gas could build pipeline extension in 2014 if interest is sufficient, development director says

By Kaitlin Schroeder
Staff Writer

Officials in Farmington, Jay, Livermore Falls and Wilton are gathering data to weigh local interest in building a new natural gas pipeline.

A Summit Natural Gas representative will return in January to see if residents and local businesses surveyed are interested in switching to natural gas, said Alison Hagerstrom, executive director of the Greater Franklin Development Corp., which is coordinating the survey.

If the project planned by Summit moves forward, the company would be able to start building the pipeline in the spring of 2014, and the customers could turn on the gas by September, according to Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton.

"I think they're serious about coming here. I'm very optimistic," Saviello said.

The gas line would be connected to a line that has already been supplying Verso Paper in Jay since 1998.

Saviello said Summit, which has been competing with Maine Natural Gas to supply nine towns along the Kennebec River, contacted him in August as a company specializing in supplying rural areas with natural gas.

Summit representative Timothy Johnston was in Wilton last week to present what the company potentially could do for the area. He did not return phone calls seeking comment Tuesday.

According to Johnston's presentation, the pipeline would cut energy costs and create about 45 temporary jobs while it is being built and will employ three or four technicians after it is built, Saviello said.

Saviello said he thinks the pipeline will create more jobs by lowering energy costs and attracting businesses to the area.

"I think it will make us better prepared to invite businesses to invest in the area," he said.

Saviello said part of the survey is to see if Franklin Memorial Hospital or the University of Maine at Farmington would be interested in switching to natural gas. He said Summit would be more interested in expanding if several large consumers were interested in gas.

Summit plans to start laying pipe in April if it gets approval from the state Public Utilities Commission.

Another company, Maine Natural Gas, already has the commission's approval to operate in Maine and has started laying a supply line to the new MaineGeneral regional hospital site. That company hopes to install infrastructure to serve Augusta and through the Kennebec Valley, to Waterville, Winslow and Fairfield.

Kaitlin Schroeder -- 861-9252


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