Gas utilities, environmentalists, consumer advocates and others are negotiating the outlines of a study in proposed legislation on how Maine might restrict the build-out of natural gas systems to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Most participants contacted would not discuss details of the closed-door negotiations.

The scope of the legislation is broad, all but guaranteeing pushback from the industry and its business group allies. The bill proposes to ban gas companies from charging ratepayers to build and expand service mains and lines beginning Feb. 1, 2025, and instead require business and residential customers that benefit from new infrastructure to pay the costs.

Workers from McGee Construction, of West Gardiner, patch a gas pipeline trench in 2013, in Hallowell. The subcontractors were working for Summit Natural Gas of Maine laying the energy line in Hallowell. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal, file

It has drawn fierce opposition from the gas industry, businesses, economic development advocates and others who say Maine would be at a disadvantage in attracting businesses, particularly manufacturers, that require access to natural gas infrastructure.

Sen. Mark W. Lawrence, D-York, co-chair of the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, said last month that he expected the measure to be reworked.

Scaling back natural gas build-outs has strong support from environmentalists who are looking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Backers of the legislation say that in addition to reducing the use of a fossil fuel, the legislation would require gas users to pay the true cost of natural gas expansion rather than use ratepayer subsidies.


Another part of the legislation calls for a study of gas system expansion, consumer costs and the “implications for gas use” in Maine such as how gas utilities are preparing for a possible loss of customers and declines in gas use due to factors related to climate change. The Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee may report out a bill to the Legislature next year, according to the legislation.

As many as 20 representatives of environmental groups, industry, state government, consumer advocates and others met Wednesday, for the second time in a week, according to Public Advocate William Harwood, who is proposing the legislation with several environmental groups.

“We did not reach any consensus or agreement,” he said Thursday.

No one has said provisions of the legislation scaling back ratepayer funding of natural gas network build-outs would be excluded from compromise legislation, he said. But the focus of negotiations is on the study, Harwood said.

Negotiators are trying to avoid having the legislation head to the “special appropriations table” in the Legislature where “most bills end up getting killed,” Harwood said.

Several participants would not comment Thursday. “I don’t want to risk inflaming the situation right now by arguing my case in the media,” said Anthony Buxton, a lawyer who represents the Industrial Energy Consumer Group, which said the legislation is “highly destructive to Maine’s manufacturing economy.”


Emily Green of the Conservation Law Foundation, an environmental advocacy group, and Jack Shapiro, climate and clean energy program director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine, declined to comment. Lizzy Reinholt, a spokesperson for Summit Natural Gas of Maine, said public discussion about “any possible amendment or study would be premature.”

Through a spokesperson, Rep. Stanley Paige Zeigler Jr., D-Montville, a sponsor of the legislation, would not comment on negotiations.

Patrick Woodcock, president and chief executive officer of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, did not discuss specifics related to negotiations. But he said the state should analyze technologies that can be adapted for natural gas systems to benefit goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve electrification.

“It’s healthy to constantly review this,” he said.

The Governor’s Energy Office opposes the legislation. But in testimony to the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, Legislative Liaison Caroline Colan said the office supports a process to “carefully examine” the future of gas demand in Maine; how gas companies are planning for changes in revenue, expenses and investments; and how to protect infrastructure safety, reliability and customer affordability as gas demand declines.

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