Natural gas is one step closer to coming to the University of Maine at Farmington after the state board of trustees gave unanimous approval to begin contract negotiations on an agreement.

UMF officials will have to negotiate a final agreement that then must be approved by the University of Maine System’s vice chancellor for finance and administration and the system’s legal counsel.

The project, which will replace heating oil systems in several campus buildings, is estimated to save UMF $4 million over 10 years, according to a press release from the University of Maine System.

UMF President Kathryn Foster said in the release the annual heating oil reduction from the switch is estimated to be the equivalent of removing 200 cars from Maine roads each year.

The university previously announced its interest in becoming a Summit Natural Gas of Maine customer, furthering a proposal for a natural gas pipeline from Jay to Farmington.

Mike Duguay, director of business development for Summit Natural Gas, said at the time that UMF’s commitment is important because the company would need large committed customers before it could justify laying down expensive infrastructure for the utility.

Summit is investing more than $300 million to install natural gas pipelines from the Augusta region up to Madison in Somerset County. Another company, Maine Natural Gas, is also installing pipeline in the Augusta area.

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