December 9, 2012

Winslow Town Council to hear Maine Natural Gas pipeline details Monday

Company spokesman man will provide pipeline information at 7 p.m. meeting; no action anticipated

By Ben McCanna
Staff Writer

WINSLOW -- Two companies are vying for an opportunity to supply natural gas to central Maine, and a representative from one will present his case to the Town Council Monday.

click image to enlarge

Maine Natural Gas started construction earlier this month installing a natural gas pipeline along Route 17 in Windsor. The firm worked with the Maine Department of Transportation and its contractors to install 12-inch coated steel pipe under 11 culvert crossings that are being rebuilt this year as part of a paving project.

Photo courtesy of David Bosse/Maine Natural Gas

 Competing natural gas pipeline proposals

• Maine Natural Gas: $19.3 million investment, creating about 40 jobs, to develop the project over the next two years, first serving state property and users on both sides of the Kennebec River in Augusta. The project includes the potential to expand, as demand warrants.
• Summit Natural Gas of Maine: $150 million investment, creating about 435 jobs, to develop project intended to serve about 15,000 residential and industrial customers by its third year of operation. The project would start in the Augusta area and the pipeline would stretch north through Waterville and end in Madison.

Source: proposals filed with state

The meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. in the Town Office, will feature a presentation by a representative for Maine Natural Gas, and the council expects to take no action, Town Manager Michael Heavener said.

The presentation will include the companies' plans to supply natural gas to businesses and residences to about 10 communities ranging from Gardiner to Madison, and will include a map of the proposed pipeline's course through Winslow, Fairfield and Waterville. The company already has given similar presentations to six communities and plans to reach out to three others.

Maine Natural Gas is competing with Summit Natural Gas for many of the same areas, and the competition has been fierce at times, including a pending lawsuit.

In November, Maine Natural Gas announced it had signed a 10-year agreement to provide natural gas to the new MaineGeneral Medical Center regional hospital under construction in north Augusta. Two weeks later, Summit Natural Gas of Maine issued a similar announcement, saying they have a 10-year commitment with Harper's Development, which owns buildings in Augusta, Gardiner, Hallowell, Oakland and Winthrop, according to previous reports.

Summit's proposed natural gas pipeline would run from an existing connection in Windsor to Augusta and throughout the Kennebec Valley as far north as Madison. The company plans to start laying pipe in the ground in April if it gains approval from the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

Maine Natural Gas already has the commission's approval to operate in Maine and has started laying a supply line to the new hospital site. The company hopes to install infrastructure to serve Augusta and much of the rest of the Kennebec Valley.

If both companies are successful, they will have virtually parallel pipelines along the same roads in many locations.

Earlier this year, Maine Natural Gas won a bid to bring a gas pipeline to state facilities in Augusta; however, that award was thrown out by an appeals panel because the state's decision-making process was found to be flawed.

Maine Natural Gas has since filed a lawsuit, which the courts have not heard yet. State officials have not said whether they will issue a new request for proposals to provide state facilities with natural gas.

Ben McCanna -- 861-9239

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