Wednesday, June 19, 2013
(Continued from page 1)
Rick Bellemare inspects a steel pipe delivered to the Windsor laydown yard of Maine Natural Gas on Monday. The firm, competing to deliver gas to Kennebec County, expects to start installing pipes in Windsor to connect a line to Augusta. Bellemare works for Enterprise Trenchless Technologies of Lisbon Falls.
Staff photo by Andy Molloy
NATURAL GAS RATE COMPARISONS
Summit Natural Gas
• Residential: $20 monthly charge; a delivery charge of $8.50 per decatherm
• Small commercial: $33 monthly charge; delivery charge of $7.50 per decatherm
• Large commercial: $285 monthly charge; delivery charge of $5.50 per decatherm
Maine Natural Gas
• Residential: $24.34 monthly charge; $3.92 per decatherm for the first five decatherms and $3.48 per decatherm beyond the first five
• Small commercial: $34.77 monthly charge; $3.92 per decatherm for the first five decatherms and $3.48 per decatherm for the next five to 95 decatherms, and $3.05 per decatherm beyond 95
• Large commercial: $260.79 monthly charge; $3.48 per decatherm for the first 100 decatherms, $3.05 per decatherm for the next 400 decatherms, and $2.60 per decatherm beyond 5,000 decatherms
Note: a decatherm is the equivalent of about one million British thermal units, or Btu, and the equivalent of about seven gallons of No. 2 heating oil.
Source: Public Utilities Commission
He said Summit's distribution plan and rates may be set up to bring gas to more customers. But by structuring the rates that way, customers in more built-up areas such as those in Augusta are in effect subsidizing customers in more rural areas by paying Summit's higher rates, Hucko said.
"Because we're going to run the pipe right through Augusta, where there is a high density population per mile, it's going to be cheaper," Hucko said. "When you start to get farther away from the backbone of the pipeline, it's more expensive for the average customer wanting gas. That increases the costs for everybody, so people in Augusta end up paying $400 or $500 more a year so people in the rural areas can get gas."
While both pipelines will feed off the existing Maritimes and Northeast pipeline that runs through area communities including Windsor and Richmond, they plan to take different routes to serve this area.
Maine Natural Gas will branch off the Maritimes line in Windsor via a pipeline following Route 17 into Augusta, where it will cross the river between Memorial Bridge and Calumet Bridge at Old Fort Western.
Summit, which had previously planned to follow a similar route, instead now plans to branch off the Maritimes pipeline via two taps — both coming through Gardiner. One will run up the west side of the river to serve Gardiner, Farmingdale, Hallowell and Augusta, and the other will go up the east side of the river. It would cross over just south of Waterville and continue north to serve Skowhegan, Norridgewock and Madison in Somerset County.
Johnston said having two taps will increase the capacity of Summit's system to serve more customers.
But it remains unknown which company will provide natural gas to serve state government buildings in Augusta.
Both companies submitted bids in response to a state request for proposals last year to provide natural gas to state facilities in Augusta and Gardiner; however, the state's efforts were scuttled. An appeals panel ruled in September that the bid process used by the state Bureau of General Services to select Maine Natural Gas as the provider was flawed and invalid.
Maine Natural Gas then filed a lawsuit challenging that appeal. The lawsuit was dismissed last week, according to officials from both companies.
The lawsuit's dismissal would appear to clear the way for the state to issue a new request for proposals. State officials could not be reached for comment Monday, and officials at both gas companies said they were not aware of the state issuing a new request.
Both companies could soon square off in bids to provide natural gas to municipal, school, court and county facilities in Augusta, Gardiner and Hallowell. Those local entities partnered in a recently-issued regional request for proposals for natural gas service. Johnston said Summit will submit a bid, while Hucko said Maine Natural Gas is reviewing the proposal and will decide soon whether to bid.
Keith Edwards — 621-5647