A public hearing to provide feedback on the time schedule for replacing old natural gas lines in Portland and Westbrook will be held June 9, at Portland City Hall.

The 6 p.m. hearing will center on plans by Unitil – formerly Northern Utilities – for its replacement program for cast iron and bare steel gas pipelines in Portland and Westbrook. 

Unitil inherited approximately 65 miles of cast iron and 10 miles of bare steel natural gas pipes in Portland and Westbrook. The original gas pipe systems were installed from the late 1800s to the early 1900s to carry manufactured coal gas; most of the remaining cast iron pipes are over 70 years old, according to the Public Utilities Commission.

The removal of the cast iron and bare steel materials and replacement with polyethylene plastic or protected steel pipe have been a focus of regulatory efforts to improve public safety since the late ’90s.

The PUC must decide the total time period to replace cast iron and unprotected steel pipes with polyethylene plastic piping materials. The company has proposed a replacement program of 15-20 years; the PUC staff has recommended a 12-year replacement program.

The overall cost of the project would be similar under either timeframe, the PUC says, although the timing of cost recovery from ratepayers could vary. Under the shorter-term program supported by the PUC staff, the costs to an average residential customer could range from $5 to $20 per year more over the next several years than under the company’s proposed longer-term program, or about 1-2 percent of the total residential bill. 

To view documents in the case, go to the PUC website at www.maine.gov/mpuc and access the Virtual Case File. Enter docket number 2008-151 in the Case ID field to retrieve available documents.