The natural gas pipeline proposal that is before local governments for approval in the Kennebec Valley area is the most important economic development opportunity for this region in this generation.

The pipeline has the potential to supply heating and power at a third of the price of oil. It will bring savings of tens of millions of dollars per year to businesses, governments and other employers in the region. It also will reduce damage to the environment and climate.

It means that manufacturers such as Kennebec Technologies will be on a level playing field with their worldwide competitors. It means that schools, local governments and the state government will have more money to spend on salaries for teachers and firefighters, and less need for layoffs. It means that MaineGeneral will have lower operating costs, which will translate into lower health insurance premiums for the rest of us.

This proposal is being given the “thrifty Yankee” treatment in town councils and town meetings in the area. It’s an honorable Maine tradition to dicker and save a buck, but natural gas availability is different from an item at a flea market. We can walk away from an item at a flea market; we can’t walk away from natural gas.

The tax increment financing being requested will not cost municipalities anything because pipelines don’t require schools or police services. The TIF is needed to help offset the high cost of construction. The pipeline will be a financial plus on the books of local governments.

Natural gas is already available in most of the country, and will be available in many other regions in Maine. Central Maine without natural gas will become an economic backwater in the next generation. It’s OK to dicker, but in the end, approve the pipeline.


Frank O’Hara


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