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PUC Staff Calls for Rejection of All Proposals to Store Liquefied Natural Gas

Staff at the Maine Public Utilities Commission say regulators should reject all bids received to provide new liquefied natural gas, or LNG, storage in the state. At the same time, Gov. Paul LePage is urging the Maine Public Utilities Commission to go ahead and sign a contract.

Last year the Legislature authorized the use of up to $25 million a year, collected from consumers’ electricity bills, to incentivize new LNG storage capacity. The goal was to stabilize gas supply needed for electricity generation in Maine, particularly in winter months, when demand can drive its price sky-high.

Eleven bids were considered, with plans for massive LNG tanks proposed at various locations in Maine. This week, the Commission’s staff recommended they all be rejected.

The report found that none would serve the public interest or were likely to save consumers money. That’s echoed by Tim Schneider, the state’s public advocate.

“When you look at the benefits that they laid out, it’s really just speculating with ratepayer money that this might pay off,” he says.

But also this week, the acting director of LePage’s energy office, Angela Monroe, wrote to the Commission saying a gas storage contract should be approved as a hedge against energy price spikes.

The three-member Commission, which has come under fire from LePage in recent weeks. is likely to decide the matter next month.