Summit Natural Gas of Maine plans to invest $90 million to extend its service into the Midcoast.

“The Midcoast is one of the last commercial centers in Maine without natural gas service, which is why Summit is committed to bringing this energy option to communities along Route 1,” Summit CEO Kurt Adams said in a news release Friday. “We are very excited to help Belfast, Camden, Rockland, and other towns in the region strengthen their economies while providing them with a lower emission fuel alternative.”

The company said it hopes to break ground on the pipeline in the fall and that roughly 100 jobs will be created in the Midcoast during construction of the pipeline.

Service is expected to start for residential and commercial customers in late 2022 following the completion of the project’s initial phase. Summit hopes to have made service available to more than 6,500 customers and extended its footprint into the towns of Lincolnville and Northport by 2026.

Town officials in Rockport and Belfast welcomed the project.

“Just as businesses require a variety of fuel sources to meet their unique energy needs, folks in the Midcoast will now have an additional option for heating their homes as they see fit,” Town Manager William Post said in the release.

Belfast Mayor Eric Sanders echoed those sentiments.

“Summit offers a long overdue choice for Belfast residents when it comes to their energy source. From pricing to environmental benefits, this is a unique opportunity for our region,” Sanders said in the release.

However, Rockland City Councilor Nate Davis, who said he is not familiar with the plans announced by Summit, questioned whether natural gas was overall a cleaner source of energy.

Davis was among the environmentalists who gathered at the Rockland Breakwater in July 2016 to argue that natural gas should not be a bridge fuel to renewable energy sources.

He said natural gas burns cleaner than coal and oil, but the extraction, transportation and storage of the fuel nullifies the benefits as a plausible bridge fuel.

Summit is offering rebates of up to $3,300 for residential and $6,600 for commercial customers to convert to natural gas.

Summit said that in addition to running a pipeline to the Midcoast communities, there also will need to be two regulator stations that are used to convert the high-pressure gas to lower pressure that can be distributed to neighborhoods. Each is likely to be sited in an industrial or business park on a half-acre to one-acre parcel.

The company said one station would likely be in Belfast or very close by, and the other one centrally located to Rockland, Thomaston, Camden and Rockport.

Natural gas distributors are regulated by the Maine Public Utilities Commission. PUC spokeswoman Susan Faloon said Friday that the expansion of a natural gas line into an area not served already by natural gas does not require PUC approval. Rates for the natural gas, however, will require approval.

 


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