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Maine Is Turning To Canada To Boost Natural Gas Supply

Ever since he took office in 2011, Gov. Paul LePage has been trying to find new ways to get natural gas into the region and drive down electricity prices in Maine. Now he says he’s talking with Canadian authorities about a new project — a crossborder pipeline that could bring gas from western Canada to Maine.

LePage unveiled the effort during a speech to an annual conference on regional natural gas issues in Falmouth. Natural gas is the predominant fuel for energy generation in New England, but access can be a problem, particularly during prolonged cold snaps, and that can drive up electricity costs.

Speaking to reporters, LePage said provincial leaders are showing “big time” interest in a new gas line to bring supply from western Quebec to Maine.

“I speak to the premier all the time. This week New Brunswick wants to get on board now. There’s a big, big interest in having affordable energy in the Northeast, and the Canadians want to help,” he said.

But LePage had few specifics to offer. And many of the conference attendees were perplexed about just what kind of project he might have in mind, given the costs, time, permitting, environmental and contract issues it likely would entail. But some applauded the idea.

“Let’s put it this way. Wherever it comes from, we’ll take it,” said Tony Buxton, a lobbyist for the Industrial Energy Consumers Group.

Buxton said Maine is now paying even more for natural gas than other states in the region, because supplies from sources off eastern Canada that were comparatively close to the state have fallen below predicted levels. A more westerly project, he said, “would back-feed New England, but the important point is that it would first feed Maine.”

Several other industry players were more skeptical, however, that LePage would be able to put a significant new project together, saying they did not expect any major new pipeline initiatives in New England to succeed in the foreseeable future.

This story was originally published Sept. 28, 2017 at 2:00 p.m. ET.

A Columbia University graduate, Fred began his journalism career as a print reporter in Vermont, then came to Maine Public in 2001 as its political reporter, as well as serving as a host for a variety of Maine Public Radio and Maine Public Television programs. Fred later went on to become news director for New England Public Radio in Western Massachusetts and worked as a freelancer for National Public Radio and a number of regional public radio stations, including WBUR in Boston and NHPR in New Hampshire.