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Business and Economy

Maine PUC's Decision to Allow Expansion of Natural Gas Pipeline Capacity Called 'Historic'

LEWISTON, Maine - A spokesman for industrial energy consumers in Maine is calling the decision by the Public Utilities Commission to expand natural gas pipeline capacity "historic." 

Attorney Anthony Buxton says New England is the most oil-dependent region of the country which he says is a detriment to the economy and to the environment. 

But Buxton says if four other New England states agree to follow the Maine PUC's lead, there could be light at the end of the end of the tunnel.

"We have available to us, but we can't get it here, the lowest cost gas, natural gas, in the world," Buxton says. "And every part of the continental United States has access to it when they need it.  We don't have access to it in the winter when it's coldest, when we most need that gas for heating and for electric generation."

PUC staff had recommended against natural gas pipeline expansion, saying the costs for such an outlay would be too risky for consumers.  The chair of the three-member panel said he was swayed by the persuasive arguments of the state's public advocate who supported the move.

Buxton calls the PUC decision "extremely careful and conservative" because of the standard used.
"They said that any contract they approved had to be beneficial to ratepayers by paying off all the costs for 20 years in the first 10 years of the contract.  Stated differently:  The benefits of the first 10 years had to outweigh the costs of 20 years."

The PUC committed to spend $75 million dollars a year or less on pipeline capacity costs which Buxton says will save consumers about $200 million per year in existing energy costs.