Lawmakers have scaled back an ambitious proposal to limit natural gas expansion in Maine, instead advancing a compromise that would require a trio of state studies about its use.

The Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee approved a measure Wednesday that now heads to the House and Senate requiring the Public Utilities Commission, Governor’s Energy Office and a group of lawmakers, industry representatives and labor leaders to conduct separate reviews.

A lawmaker complained that the compromise is vastly different from the measure’s initial intent and Maine Public Advocate William Harwood said it reflects strong opposition from the industry.

“I understand gas utilities are fighting for their corporate lives,” Harwood said.

Among the studies is one by the PUC examining a framework for its oversight of future investments by gas utilities.

In addition, the Governor’s Energy Office would study the use of natural gas in meeting energy needs of the residential, commercial, institutional, industrial and power generation sectors and in employing Maine workers. It also would study policy and regulations in other states and the role of gas infrastructure supporting the transition to a low-carbon future. The office also would examine new and emerging technologies for the production, transportation, delivery and storage of natural gas.


And, if the measure passes, a commission of legislators, representatives of various industries, organized labor and others would be formed to establish a framework for a “just and equitable transition” for workers affected by state energy policies and goals.

The original legislation proposed limiting natural gas expansion in Maine by prohibiting gas companies from charging ratepayers for construction and expansion of gas service mains and gas service lines beginning Feb. 1, 2025. Instead, only business and residential customers that benefit from new gas mains and service lines would pay the costs.

Environmentalists and consumer advocates backed the measure, while gas utilities fiercely opposed it. Sen. Mark Lawrence, D-York, co-chair of the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, said soon after the bill was unveiled that it would be reworked.

Environmental advocates said the intent was to require users to pay the true cost of gas, rather than force others to subsidize utility hookups.

Harwood said the legislation would have protected Maine’s 50,000 gas customers from paying for an “overbuilt” natural gas system that will become redundant as reliance on gas declines because of tightening limits on greenhouse gas emissions and increasingly electrified heating and cooling of buildings.

Gas utilities and businesses said it would reduce consumer choice and hobble economic development by making it difficult to attract businesses with promises of natural gas connections.


Harwood said a conventional belief that lawmakers authorize a study when they fail to come up with the votes to make real change is not the case here. “It provides an opportunity and framework to start an important and serious conversation about natural gas in Maine,” he said.

The pace of the studies will slow efforts to limit natural gas use in Maine. The yet-to-be-organized commission would be required to submit a report to the Legislature by Dec. 4 and the PUC and Governor’s Office would report to the Legislature by Dec. 1, 2025.

Workers from Cianbro and Shaw Brothers work together to install pipe Route 88 in Cumberland Foreside in 2014. Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

Rep. Sophia Warren, D-Scarborough, a member of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, criticized the amended legislation Wednesday as very different “from what it could have been and what good it could have done.”

“I feel in some ways ashamed to be voting for something that is so far from what could have been good and useful and necessary, and I understand that at the same time it’s important to push something forward that continues this conversation,” she told colleagues.

Jack Shapiro, climate and clean energy program director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said in an email the legislation could have gone further, but “follows the intention of the original bill, which was to start the conversation about the future of gas in Maine.”

“Our existing fossil gas system comes with significant health, climate and ratepayer risks,” he said. “We know we have to address it and the responsible thing is to start now. This bill does that.”


The legislation is the result of a “good faith, collaborative process” among legislators, gas utilities, the PUC, public advocate, Governor’s Energy Office, environmental groups and worker representatives, Rep. Stanley Paige Zeigler, D-Montville, the House chair of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, said in an emailed statement.

Many industries in Maine rely on natural gas, but utilities want to know their role as the state moves away from fossil fuels, he said. The study ensures they’ll participate in the transition, he said.

Jason Shedlock, president of the Maine State Building and Construction Trades Council and an officer of the Laborers International Union, said negotiations “brought people together to understand we need to talk about a transition, but we need data and the size and scope of the portfolio and what actually happens to people working in the field.”

“Labor pushed very hard to get a simple study on a just and equitable workforce,” he said.

Lizzy Reinholt, senior vice president of corporate affairs, sustainability and marketing at Summit Gas, said research is necessary to document how gas utilities can help reduce Maine’s carbon footprint. Ideas include using pipelines to transport carbon dioxide for carbon capture and storage and also move hydrogen energy.

Summit Gas favored a “more fulsome study” that models the cost effectiveness of achieving Maine’s emissions reduction goals with pipeline infrastructure rather than electrification, Reinholt said. But she acknowledged cost is a factor. The study by the Governor’s Energy Office will be a good start, Reinholt said.

“How can we achieve climate goals if we haven’t studied how to do it?” she asked.

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