Augusta wants gas pipeline | News

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Augusta wants gas pipeline
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AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - How soon will people in the Augusta area be able to heat their homes or businesses with natural gas?

That may depend on a decision by a state appeals board. A company called Maine Natural Gas won the bid in June to build a gas pipeline to feed state government buildings in Augusta. But the losing bidder appealed that ruling.

A hearing was held on Tuesday, and the appeals board is expected to make a decision sometime next month. Towns, cities and businesses up and down the Kennebec Valley say they also want access to natural gas, which is much cheaper than heating oil.

Some favored the losing bidder, Summit Natural Gas, but others say they think either company can provide the service. The Kennebec Valley Council of Governments says 13 towns and cities have asked the state to start the bidding process all over again, because of concerns it did not place enough importance on providing regional gas service, as opposed to simply serving state government.

A spokesman for Maine Natural Gas says the company intends to expand its pipeline north and south of Augusta if its economically viable. Supporters of the competing proposal say Summit had guaranteed that expanded service.

Maine General Hospital, which is building a new hospital on the outer edge of Augusta, says the new complex has been planned to use natural gas because it is much less expensive than oil and better for the environment.The administrator in charge of the project says heating oil for the new building would cost an extra $1 million every year.

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